WHILE the Nazim Jokhio murder case remains a hot topic of indoor discussions and debate in streets, law experts see legal hitches in the case which could ultimately benefit the influential elite in the end.

For the last five months, the case has been moved back and forth between the ordinary sessions court and the special antiterrorism court just to decide a simple question as to whether the young activist’s murder is an act of ‘terrorism’ or not.

On January 13, the additional district and sessions’ judge (Malir) dismissed bail applications of some suspects, declaring that the accused persons committed the murder with a clear sense to send a message of terror among their tribe.

Subsequently, the judicial magistrate (Malir) on Feb 8 also refused to accept the final charge sheet submitted by the investigating officer, Inspector Sirajuddin Lashari, observing that the offence fell within the ambit of ‘terrorism’, hence the charge sheet shall be submitted to an ATC.

Justice seems difficult as ‘remedies’ exist for influential elite

However, between this legal marathon some shocking incidents took place as the victim’s widow, Shireen Jokhio, announced that she had ‘pardoned’ the accused persons. Jokhio’s brother too followed the suit.

Leaving the campaigners seeking justice for slain Jokhio in an utter shock, Ms Shireen added that she could not stand against the influential elites and would better not pursue the case anymore.

Amid such developments, IO Lashari filed the final charge sheet before the administrative judge of the ATCs, already excluding the names of the PPP lawmakers from the list of the accused, charge-sheeting their two servants — Haider Ali and Meer Ali — for allegedly murdering Nazim, intimidating his family and causing terrorism.

On Monday, the judge of the ATC-XV ruled that the case did not fall within the meaning of Section 6(1)(c) of the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997, thus directed the IO to submit the same to an ordinary sessions’ court for conducting the trial in accordance with the law.

IO Lashari, the counsel representing the widow Shireen Jokhio and complainant Afzal supported the state prosecutor and defence counsel for the PPP legislator brothers and others, who claimed that the murder ‘did not cause terror’.

Seeing the victim’s widow and the brother allegedly dragged their feet in pursuing the case, the National Human Rights Commission moved the trial proceedings pleading to allow it join the trial.

Advocate Jibran Nasir, counsel for the NHRC, disagrees with Monday’s ruling of the ATC judge.

“The sessions court (Malir) had already clearly declared that the accused persons’ acts of calling Nazim Jokhio [at their farmhouse], threatening him to delete the video clips of the lawmakers’ foreign guests hunting houbara bustard and upon refusal torturing [clubbing] him to death fell within the meaning of ‘terrorism’,” he recalled. “This is also a violation of the basic fundamental rights of an individual,” he added.

Insisting that the offence falls under the definition of terrorism, Mr Nasir announced that they would challenge the ATC’s order before the Sindh High Court as well as at other legal forums.

Legal hitches

But, the other legal experts see hitches in the case.

Advocate Muhammad Farooq, who specialises in criminal trials, told Dawn that while declining to accept the charge sheet the antiterrorism court’s judge had cited a recent judgement of the Supreme Court’s larger bench, which had minutely described and differentiated between the circumstances to declare an offence as an act of terrorism.

“Any offence committed that causes a sense of insecurity or fear among any particular segment of the society, for example the Shia or other communities, means an act of terrorism,” he explained.

“In the present case of Nazim Jokhio’s murder simply a murder has been committed that does not panic or terrorise any particular segment of the society, so it would not fall within the meaning of terrorism,” he viewed.

Barrister Salahuddin Ahmed, who specialises in criminal and constitutional matters, says it would be difficult to prove the charge of terrorism in the Nazim Jokhio’s murder case.

“To prove it, first it will have to be proved that the offence was meant to terrorise the whole environmental activists’ community like Nazim Jokhio. For which, the prosecution would have to really work hard,” he added.

What would be the case’s fate then?

After the ATC refused to accept the charge sheet, the prosecution is set to submit the same before a sessions court for taking cognizance and initiating trial.

Under the stricter anti-terror laws a murder cannot be pardoned, even if the victim’s legal heirs pardoned the accused party, who will ultimately have to be punished.

On the contrary, the Pakistan Penal Code provides leniency of compromising a murder through paying Diyat (blood money) to the victim’s legal heirs.

Barrister Ahmed opines that the problem lies with the laws concerning the provisions of Qisas and/or Diyat.

“There is a need to revisit these legal provisions because the influential ones can easily play with the laws and ultimately avail the remedies by misusing the Islamic laws in the shape of paying Diyat to the aggrieved party,” he says.

Nazim Jokhio, 26, was tortured and killed allegedly at PPP MPA Jam Awais’ farmhouse in Malir on November 3 last year.

Initially, his brother Afzal Jokhio nominated PPP MPA Awais, his elder brother MNA Jam Abdul Karim, their servants for murdering Nazim because of his protest over houbara bustard hunting by the lawmakers’ foreign guests. Nazim had filmed the incident and shared it on the social media which infuriated them.

Published in Dawn, May 25th, 2022

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