KARACHI: With a thick brown shawl draped over his head and hands cuffed tightly underneath, Nawab Siraj Talpur, one of the prime suspects in the Shahzeb Khan murder case, was finally brought by law enforcers to the Anti-Terrorism Court on Monday.
Used to sitting on comfortable sofas all his life, the son of a feudal elite was seated on a hard wooden bench outside the courtroom, waiting for his turn. The band of gun-totting guards that used to accompany him around the city was replaced with over two dozen policemen.
Early on in the day, there were hints that this was going to be no ordinary day at court. “Have you heard the song ‘Waderay ka Beta’?” a guard said in hushed tones as he smiled. The real drama began an hour before noon. The calm sea of cameramen and reporters, who had been waiting patiently – some for up to three hours – by the main gate, began to stir as two Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs) carrying the suspects rolled in at around 11am. The APCs were accompanied by a police van packed with law enforcers. When the vehicles came to a halt in the dusty parking ground by the building, cameramen positioned their equipment, hungry for a shot of the man who had slipped past the police for 10 days before he was busted in Dadu.
Unfortunately for them, police officials chose to keep the suspects inside the APCs – Siraj and his brother Sajjad in one vehicle and the cook Ghulam Murtaza in the other – until the proceedings of the ongoing hearings had been wrapped up. The policemen, headed by Special Investigation Unit chief Farooq Awan and DSP Usman Asghar, guarded the vehicle carefully. But most of the law enforcers had not even seen Siraj’s face. “To be honest, even I haven’t seen the suspects’ faces as yet,” DSP Usman Asghar told The Express Tribune.
“I don’t even know which one of the hooded men is Siraj.” Though there was a flurry of activity outside both vehicles, with law enforcers pacing about them and reprimanding adventurous cameramen, the APCs themselves did not move until noon. When it was time for the passengers to get off, the vehicles were backed up close to the staircase outside the building so that the suspects could quickly clamber up to court room number three.
Once outside the courtroom, the three suspects, who were chained together, were made to sit on a hard wooden bench and a wall of law enforcers occluded them from cameras’ lenses. Between the gaps, one could catch a glimpse of Siraj, who was very lean and appeared to be somewhere between five and six feet tall. He was clad in a dark brown shalwar kameez and moccasins. Apparently Siraj was very nervous, as he shook his leg impatiently and rocked back and forth beneath the shawl as he waited outside the courtroom for nearly 20 minutes. His brother, who looked stockier, was clad in an off-white shalwar kameez also appeared to be uncomfortable. Though their faces were concealed, one could clearly tell the brothers from the cook, who wore cheaper Hyderabadi sandals and a green shalwar kameez.
The suspects were finally called inside at around 12:38pm. As the shawls were about to be whipped off, a cacophony of clicks filled the air – but once again, no dice. The three suspects had been hooded for good measure. Just under five minutes, they emerged from the courtroom, having been remanded to police custody for 10 days. They were taken straight to the APCs waiting for them on the ground floor and sped off, leaving reporters and cameramen a little disappointed that they didn’t exactly get what they had come for.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 8th, 2013.