The Supreme Court on Tuesday acquitted Shahrukh Jatoi as well as his accomplices in the Shahzeb Khan murder case.

A three-judge bench, headed by Justice Ijazul Ahsan, and comprising Justice Munib Akhtar and Justice Sayyed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi, heard the case.

An Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) had awarded the death penalty to Jatoi and his accomplice Siraj Ali Talpur for Shahzeb’s murder in 2012 following a petty dispute. Siraj’s younger brother, Sajjad Ali Talpur, and domestic helper Ghulam Murtaza Lashari had been handed life sentences.

A couple of months after the sentence was passed, however, Shahzeb’s parents had issued a formal pardon for the convicts, approved by the Sindh High Court (SHC).

Despite the pardon, however, the death penalty had been upheld because of the addition of terrorism charges to the case — up until the SHC dropped the charges and ordered a retrial in the case.

The SHC, while hearing appeals against the conviction, had later commuted the death sentences into life imprisonment. Subsequently, all four accused had approached the Supreme Court.

During the hearing today, their lawyer, Latif Khosa, noted that the formal pardon had already been issued. His clients had no intention to spread terror, he argued.

Subsequently, the court acquitted all four people. A detailed order is awaited.

AGP office to file petition against verdict

Later in the day, a press release from the office of the Attorney General of Pakistan (AGP) said it had noted with concern the acquittal since the AGP’s position was not sought.

“This is despite the instant case having already been adjudicated to be one of constitutional importance by the Supreme Court, which mandates seeking the assistance of the Attorney-General — as has been sought previously in petitions pertaining to the same matter,” the press release reads.

It said AGP Ashtar Ausaf Ali had already contended in the case that “the accused persons had committed an act of egregious terrorism” and his position was accepted by the apex court as well.

“Be that as it may, in the event that the apex court has arrived at an outcome outside of its own previous pronouncements relating to anti-terrorism offences, the Attorney-General’s assistance must regardless be sought as to the acceptance of compromise, the scope of fisad-fil-arz (mischief on earth) and the particular circumstances of the instant case a review of judgement would be eminent.”

The press release said that for the above reasons the AGP office would be filing a review petition against the SC judgement in the “interest of justice”, pending the issuance of detailed reasons for the verdict.

Shahzeb Khan’s murder

On the night of December 24, 2012, 20-year-old Shahzeb Khan, the son of a police official, had been gunned down in Karachi’s Defence Housing Authority. He was returning home with his sister from a wedding.

Shahzeb was killed for picking a fight with one of the suspects’ servants, who had verbally threatened and harassed his sister.

Then chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry had taken suo motu notice of the incident, which sparked widespread outrage across the country through newspapers, TV channels and social media.

As the prime accused belonged to powerful feudal families of Sindh, the incident had triggered a nationwide debate over whether the country’s elite could be held accountable for crimes they committed.

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