An Islamabad district and sessions court on Tuesday discharged senior journalist Ayaz Amir from the murder case of his Canadian national daughter-in-law, Sarah Inam.
The court concluded that there was no evidence against Ayaz in the police diary, as it announced its decision on the police’s request to extend the journalist’s physical remand by another five days.
The request was made as Ayaz’s remand, which was initially extended for a day on Monday (yesterday), expired.
He was arrested on Saturday night for his alleged involvement in the murder case, a day after his son, Shahnawaz Amir, was arrested on allegations of killing his wife at a farmhouse in Shahzad Town in Islamabad, where the latter lived along with his mother.
The senior journalist was presented before Civil Judge Muhammad Amir Aziz today, with police seeking another extension in his remand and his counsel arguing against it.
Ayaz’s lawyers, Advocate Basharatullah, Nisar Asghar and Malik Zafran, submitted a wakalatnama (power of attorney) on their client’s behalf.
Presenting his arguments, Advocate Basharatullah said the case was registered on September 23, three hours after the incident allegedly occured. He contended that Ayaz had no connection with the case and that police had no evidence against him.
The lawyer said Ayaz was at his residence in Chakwal at the time and he had promptly informed the police.
“Ayaz Amir has no connection with the house [in Shahzad Town] for the past 35 years,” he said, arguing that there was no evidence against the journalist in the police diary. Police, he said, had not been able to satisfy the court regarding the basis of which evidence the journalist was arrested.
He urged the court to discharge Ayaz from the case.
“We are not trying to evade the probe. But they got warrants issued and arrested [Ayaz],” he said.
Countering his arguments, the government’s lawyer said points raised by Advocate Basharatullah would be more relevant during the trial. “At the remand stage, what is to be considered is what evidence has surfaced,” he contended.
“Ayaz Amir had contacted [Shahnawaz] on Whatsapp. This is the evidence we have till now.”
Moreover, the lawyer told the court that if at any point, “we conclude that he (Ayaz) is innocent, we will discharge him ourselves”.
When the judge asked who had nominated Ayaz in the case, the lawyer replied that Sarah’s uncle had nominated in him. The deceased’s uncle, he said, was in Pakistan.
Meanwhile, Sarah’s parents had reached Islamabad to perform their daughter’s last rites, the lawyer told the court.
At that, the judge asked, “Prima facie, what evidence do you have [against Ayaz]?”
The lawyer replied that Shahnawaz had contacted him after the murder, adding that Sarah’s parents had all the evidence.
Here, Advocate Basharatullah interjected, highlighting the irony of police arresting an individual first and then looking for evidence.
The government’s lawyer contended in turn that the call detail record (CDR) of a Whatsapp call could not be obtained.
However, the mobile phone had been sent for forensic analysis, he informed the court, without specifying whether he was talking about Ayaz’s phone or Shahnawaz’s phone.
Advocate Basharatullah countered these arguments, saying: “Police only have to press a button to get CDR.”
Moreover, he asked whether a father contacting his son was enough for enforcing Section 109 (punishment for abetment if the act abetted is committed in consequence and where no express provision is made for its punishment) of the Pakistan Penal Code.
“If it is so, police can make everyone who contacted [Shahnawaz] a suspect,” he argued.
Continuing his arguments, he added: “Police themselves are saying they will discharge [Ayaz] if he is proved innocent. But they kept him in custody for days. Who is responsible for the humiliation [Ayaz had to face due to his detention]?”
He said police may come and arrest Ayaz with a warrant after collecting evidence against him.
At this, the government’s lawyer said, “If we intended to fabricate evidence, we would have done so by now. We are working with complete honesty.”
“Your honesty is that I have been standing handcuffed for the past four days,” Advocated Basharatullah countered.
Following that, the court reserved its judgement on the police’s request for an extension in Ayaz’s remand and later ruled that the journalist should be discharged from the case.
Police have become a complainant in the case, with the FIR registered on the complaint of Shahzad Town Station House Officer Nawazish Ali Khan.
The complaint stated that on September 23, Shahnawaz’s mother Sameena Shah called police and informed them that Shahnawaz had murdered his wife “with a dumbbell”.
“My son is present in the house and has hidden the body,” the FIR quoted Sameena as saying, adding that the police subsequently raided the house.
“He had locked himself up in his room. When they broke inside, there were stains of blood stains on Shahnawaz’s hands and clothes,” the police said in the complaint.
“He then confessed that he had repeatedly hit his wife with a dumbbell during an argument and then hid her body in the washroom’s bathtub.”
According to the FIR, Shahnawaz also said he had “hidden” the murder weapon under his bed.
Upon examining the dumbbell, the police found blood and hair on it. “We have sent it for forensics,” the FIR added.
The complaint further stated that the victim’s body had been sent to the Polyclinic Hospital for a postmortem examination.