The defence in the Sarfraz Shah case finally has the information it needs to have the case tried as a simple murder rather than an act of terrorism.
The Joint Investigating Team (JIT) has submitted its report that is crucial to its stand that the murder of Sarfraz Shah does not fall within the scope of Anti Terrorism Act (ATA 1997).
The development came during the hearing of a revision application by a Sindh High Court (SHC) division bench comprising Justice Gulzar Ahmed and Justice Muhammad Tasnim on Tuesday.
Muhammad Afzal’s lawyer, Mehmood Alam Rizvi, is seeking the transfer of this case from the Anti Terrorism Court (ATC) to an ordinary sessions court.
“You have stated that there was no terrorism because there was no public present at the park,” said Justice Ahmed. “It is matter of evidence. The ATC decide whether it falls into the ambit of terrorism or relevant court as the ATC holds the daily proceedings on the case.”
Rizvi then drew the bench’s attention to the order of the Supreme Court which directed the Investigation Officer (IO) to file the case’s charge sheet “before a court of competent jurisdiction.”
He said that the JIT report was being kept from the defence which was affecting the interests of the accused. The IO, DIG Sultan Ali Khawaja, immediately produced the report and distributed copies to the defence when the bench asked why the defence had not been given copies of the report that stated that the murder did not cause any terror.
On the request of Counsel Shaukat Hayat Advocate, the court told the IO to submit the report before the ATC holding the trial.
Earlier, Prosecutor General Sindh Shahdat Awan opposed requests to make the JIT report public as he felt the charge sheet had already been submitted thus making the report immaterial.
The court later put off further proceedings in transfer plea till Wednesday as Mehmood Alam Rizvi advocate, counsel for applicant sought time to go through the JIT report.
IOs statement all for the defence
In a turn of events, DIG Sultan A Khawaja – who was appointed to the case specially by Supreme Court for his ‘good reputation’ – seemed to mince words in his statement before the ATC-I judge Bashir Ahmed Khoso.
He told the court he was appointed IO in the case and how he investigated the three FIRs including the two against the deceased, Sarfraz Shah, that were later declared null and void and closed as ‘B-Class’.
The IO statement as a prosecution witness (PW) was based on the footage of the incident. He said that he saw the accused, Afsar Khan, dragging the victim and turning him over to the Rangers who encircled him and shot him.
He heard the boy begging for mercy saying that “he had no other choice and that the pistol is a toy pistol”. “Instead of waiting for an ambulance, they should have shifted the injured boy in their mobile which is seen standing in the footage, this makes their intentions clear,” said Khawaja.
Anxious to get the JIT report on record, DIG brought out the report but faced resistance from Special Public Prosecutor (SPP) Muhammad Khan Buriro who claimed that the IO is submitting the JIT report on his own motion, while he was testifying as a witness.
SPP Buriro told the Khawaja that the SHC has ordered him to submit the report before ATC trial court but he was producing it as part of his testimony.
To the defence’s delight, Khawaja submitted that “the Rangers officials were on official duty, there was no pre-planning and no intention to commit terrorism”.
The SPP conducting the examination in chief sought a clarification – they felt that the IO was deliberately favouring the defence in his testimony. However, the court said that it can clearly see that the IO is saying things that he would have said in a cross examination.
As the defence leapt to their feet to object, the court asked them to wait for their turn to cross examine the witness. Either way, “what is left to his testimony? He has already said everything that favours the defence’s case” the court observed right before the case was set aside till Wednesday.
The court rejected applications by the defence asking to visit the crime scene and to summon the host of the programme ‘News Beat’ who interviewed the cameraman who recorded the incident Abdul Salam Soomro.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 27th, 2011.