KARACHI: An antiterrorism court on Tuesday acquitted chief of the outlawed Peoples Amn Committee Uzair Baloch in a case pertaining to kidnapping and murder of two Rangers personnel in 2013.
The Lyari gangster along with accused Sheikh Sher Muhammad was charged with ordering the latter to kill the paramilitary personnel in March 2013 within the jurisdiction of the Pak Colony police station.
Uzair Baloch has been facing dozens of criminal cases pertaining to murder, kidnapping, extortion and terrorism pending before various sessions and antiterrorism courts in Karachi.
Since January 2021, he has been acquitted in around 20 cases by the relevant courts.
On Tuesday, the ATC-XVI judge, who conducted the trial in the judicial complex inside the central prison, pronounced his verdict reserved after recording evidence and final arguments from both sides.
Alleged Lyari gangster has been exonerated from all charges in at least 20 criminal cases
The judge noted that the prosecution had failed to prove the allegations against Uzair Baloch and Sher Muhammad.
The court acquitted both of them due to ‘lack of evidence’, said the defence counsel.
The court also acquitted accused Sher Muhammad in two separate cases pertaining to allegedly possessing a licensed pistol of a slain Rangers personnel and a hand-grenade.
The judge also directed prison authorities to release them forthwith if their custody was not required in any other case.
However, Uzair Baloch cannot be released since he is facing trial in around 23 other criminal cases, his defence counsel Abid Zaman told Dawn.
The order in the case was reserved on Dec 20, 2021 after seven years during which the trial remained suspended as the custody of Uzair Baloch was taken by the army.
Three cases were registered under Sections 302 (premeditated murder) and 34 (common intention) of the Pakistan Penal Code read with the Section 7 (punishment for acts of terrorism) of the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997 and Section 25-A of the Sindh Arms Act, 2013.
According to the prosecution, Uzair Baloch had made a confessional statement before Judicial Magistrate Syed Imran Imam Zaidi under Section 164 of the criminal procedure code in 2016 revealing the modus operandi of running alleged extortion rackets under the patronage of the Pakistan Peoples Party leadership and senior police officers.
The prosecution said that Uzair purportedly stated that two Rangers personnel — Muneer Ahmed Bhutto and Aijaz Ahmed Baloch, who were on intelligence duty — were kidnapped from Lyari by Sheikh and later killed on the orders of Baloch.
It said that the court had also recorded testimony of SSP Fida Hussain Janwari, who was the head of a joint investigation team that had grilled Baloch.
The prosecution said that an official pistol belonging to a slain personnel was also recovered from Sher Muhammad, who had hidden the same in a graveyard.
Rangers special prosecutor Chaudhry Mehmood claimed that there was sufficient material as well as ocular evidence available to establish the role of both the accused with the double murder.
He pleaded the court to punish the accused in accordance with the law.
However, in his statement under Section 342 of CrPC Uzair Baloch had claimed that he never made any confession, thus the alleged confessional statements attributed to him were managed to harm his reputation as well as of the PPP.
Sher Muhammad had also denied the allegations and claimed his innocence in the present case.
Defence counsel Zaman argued that the prosecution had produced the purported confessional statements before a judicial magistrate and a JIT to falsely connect his client with the commissioning of the double murder of the paramilitary personnel.
He said the prosecution failed to establish its claim as there was no concrete evidence to establish his role in the alleged offence. The counsel said co-accused Sheikh Muhammad purportedly belonged to the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) while Uzair Baloch had no association with this political party.
Defence counsel Muhammad Jiwani argued that the law enforcers had picked up Sher Muhammad from his house and a constitutional petition about his illegal detention was filed with the Sindh High Court by his family.
He added that around 11 days after he went missing the Rangers had shown recovery of an official pistol belonging to one of the slain personnel from a graveyard on a lead provided by Sher Muhammad.
He argued that such a recovery was false since his client was believed to be in the custody of the law enforcers during such period.
He further argued that the prosecution had failed to examine any private witness in the present case, as all the witnesses were official witnesses.
Rangers had announced the arrest of Baloch in a raid on the outskirts of Karachi in January 2016. Some reports said that he was arrested earlier from Dubai with the help of Interpol.
Later, the army had taken over his custody for a trial in an espionage case and a military court had awarded him 12-year imprisonment for spying for Iranian intelligence agencies.
Published in Dawn, January 5th, 2022