HYDERABAD: An antiterrorism court on Monday sentenced a man to life imprisonment in the 2017 Sindh University student Naila Rind suicide case.

ATC-I Judge Nadeem Ahmed Akhund found accused Anis Khaskheli guilty of the offence punishable under Section 7-A of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1997.

The court imposed a fine of Rs200,000 on him and in case of default he would have to undergo another six-month imprisonment.

The payment of fine shall be paid to legal heirs of deceased Naila Rind, a final year student of department of Sindhi at SU.

The court also handed down three-year imprisonment to the accused under Section 21(b)(c) (cyberstalking) of the Prevention of Electronic Crime Act (Peca) 2016.

All the sentences would run concurrently.

However, the court granted him the benefit of Section 382-B (period of detention to be considered while awarding sentence of imprisonment) of the criminal procedure code.

ATC also convicts accused for harassing victim; call to make public probes into suicide cases of Nimrta Kumari and Nausheen Kazmi

Khaskheli appeared in court on bail. He was taken into custody following the pronouncement of the verdict and sent to prison to serve the sentence.

According to the prosecution, the body of Naila Rind was found hanging from the ceiling fan of her room in SU’s Marvi Hostel in Jamshoro on Jan 1, 2017. She was a final-year student of the Sindhi department. Later, Anis Khaskheli, a teacher at a school in Jamshoro, was arrested in connection with the case on the basis of the victim’s cell phone records.

A judicial probe conducted by Hyderabad district and sessions judge Amjad Ali Bohio on the directives of a division bench of Sindh High Court comprising Justices Salahuddin Panhwar and Fahim Ahmed Siddiqui had earlier concluded that the student had committed suicide due to exploitation and blackmailing by a man who had befriended her on WhatsApp.

Accused Anis’s mobile phone and data including pictures and messages were also present before the trial court by prosecution.

According to then SHO Tahir Mughal, victim’s brother Nisar Rind lodged an FIR stating that Naila had reached home on the fateful day and looked disturbed. On a query from the family, she told them that she was being ‘harassed’ and ‘blackmailed’. However, her family told her to just concentrate on her studies and do not get worried as family members would handle this matter.

A case was registered on the complaint of Naila’s elder brother on Jan 6, 2017 after she was found dead in her hostel’s room under mysterious circumstances.

Khaskheli was tried under sections 315 (qatl shibh-i-amd), 316 (Punishment for qatl shibh-i-amd), 509 (insulting modesty or causing sexual harassment) of the Pakistan Penal Code.

He was also charged with Section 6/7 of the ATA 1997 and Sections 3 (unauthorised access to information system or data) and 9 (glorification of an offence) of the Prevention of Electronic Crime Act.

The report of a post-mortem examination had said that the death was caused by constriction of neck, leading to asphyxia and was sufficient to cause death in ordinary course of nature resulting from antimortem hanging (suicidal). It mentioned that no sign of sexual assault was found during the autopsy.

A seven-member fact-finding committee of the SU had also submitted its report to the registrar. It pointed out several issues considered as ‘deficiencies’ and ‘flaws’ in SU’s girls hostel management systems.

WAF hails verdict

The Women Action Forum (WAF) hailed the verdict in the Naila Rind case.

In a press release issued on Monday, the WAF said that the verdict would increase trust of parents and female students who were forced to commit suicide to save their honour.

It demanded that investigation into suicide cases of Dr Nimrta Kumari and Nausheen Kazmi also be made public.

WAF emphasised the need for speedy disposal of blackmailing and harassment cases for protection of students. “These students often decide to commit suicide due to family and social pressure instead of reporting harassment and blackmailing.”

It said that the judgement would encourage students to adopt legal course against blackmailers.

Published in Dawn, January 31st, 2023

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