KARACHI: An antiterrorism court on Friday sentenced four accused to life in prison on two counts for facilitating, aiding and abetting the outlawed Terheek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in assassinating renowned rights activist Perween Rahman in 2013.

The four accused — Muhammad Raheem Swati, Ayaz Shamzai, Amjad Hussain Khan and Ahmed Khan aka Ahmed Ali aka Pappu Kashmiri — were found guilty of facilitating, aiding and abetting with common intention TTP commanders Mehfuzullah alias Bhalu, who had been killed in a police encounter, and Moosa for the murder of the rights activist.

However, Swati’s son Mohammad Imran, the fifth accused, was sentenced to seven-year imprisonment on the charge of concealing evidence.

Ms Rahman, the then head of the Orangi Pilot Project (OPP) who devoted her life to the development of the impoverished neighbourhoods across the country, was gunned down near her office in Orangi Town on March 13, 2013.

Court sentences fifth accused to seven years in prison for concealing evidence

On Friday, the ATC-VII judge, who conducted the trial in the judicial complex inside the central prison, pronounce his verdict reserved after recording evidence and final arguments from both sides.

The trial took around eight years during which some five joint investigation teams were constituted by the provincial and federal governments on the directives of the Supreme Court to probe the high-profile killing.

The judge sentenced the four accused to life imprisonment ‘twice’ and ordered to pay a collective fine of Rs300,000 each. On default to payment, they would have to undergo an additional imprisonment of one year each.

The judge ruled that accused Imran, Shamzai, Hussain and Khan were found guilty of disappearing/concealing evidence of the offence. They were sentenced to seven-year imprisonment and ordered to pay Rs75,000 fine each.

However, the judge while extending them the benefit of Section 382-b (period of detention to be considered while awarding sentence of imprisonment) of the criminal procedure code ruled that all the sentences would run concurrently.

The judge noted that the overall attending circumstances and material collected by the investigation agency, the interview recorded by Ms Rahman, the confession of accused Raheem Swati and findings of the JIT supervised by the Federal Investigation Agency, established that the prosecution succeeded to unearth all such material facts of the case and accusation against the accused is well founded.

“The accused at no stage succeeded to dislodge the material placed on record; neither they failed to cause dent in the case of prosecution in any way, thus the defence agitated by the accused is hereby discarded,” the verdict reads.

The judge noted that the prosecution established that by getting Ms Rahman murdered the accused created terror, fear, a sense of insecurity and panic among the staff of the OPP and other NGOs, besides the surrounding area, to get them realise that there should be nobody to stand in their way.

The prosecution also proved that accused Imran misguided and concealed the whereabouts of his father Raheem Swati to get the investigating agency bluffed and linger on the investigations so that the evidence could not be gathered.

Complainant’s counsel Faisal Siddiqi and Salahuddin Panhwar argued that Swati in his confessional statement before SSP Akhtar Farooqui disclosed that local leaders of the Awami National Party (ANP) had hired Taliban militants to kill Ms Rahman.

The confessional statement added that Shamzai and Swati, said to be the local leaders of the ANP, were living near the OPP office and tried to obtain a designated area to build a karate centre, but Ms Rahman had refused to allow it, the counsel added.

The counsel said all the accused persons were present in a meeting held in January 2013 at Swati’s residence in which they planned Ms Rahman’s murder, adding that they hired a local TTP commander for the murder.

Special Public Prosecutors Neel Parkash and Ali Raza argued that there was sufficient evidence to establish the role of each accused with the commissioning of the offence.

On the other hand, defence counsel Shah Imroz Khan, Ajab Khan Khattak and Abid Zaman claimed innocence on the part of their clients, saying they were framed in the present case and pleaded the court to acquit them of the false and fabricated allegations.

Initially, a case was registered under Sections 302 (premeditated murder) and 34 (common intention) of the Pakistan Penal Code at the Pirabad police station on the complaint of the victim’s sister, Aquila Ismail.

Later, Section 7 (punishment for acts of terrorism) of the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997 was incorporated in the case on the basis of a judicial inquiry conducted by then district and sessions judge (west) Ghulam Mustafa Memon on the orders of the SC.

Published in Dawn, December 18th, 2021

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