Verdict awaited: ATC reserves judgment in Sarfraz Shah case for Aug 12

Prosecutor asks for death penalty, defence argues that there was no plan to murder or terrorise anyone.

Zeeshan Mujahid August 09, 2011


An Anti-Terrorism Court has reserved its judgment  for August 12 in the murder case of Syed Sarfraz Shah in which six personnel of the Abdullah Shah Ghazi Rangers and a civilian are standing trial.

On Tuesday, the court heard final arguments by defence counsel Shaukat Hayat and Aamir Warriach followed by concluding arguments by Special Public Prosecutor (SPP) Muhammad Khan Buriro.

SPP Buriro asked the court to award all the men capital punishment as they killed a young man with the common intention of leaving the entire nation in shock and terrorised.

Earlier, the defence had descibed the incident of June 8 as an “accident” and not a planned murder. They strongly rebutted the charge of terrorism against the men facing trial.

In his final arguments, the SPP said that the prosecution examined 20 witnesses. At least five eyewitnesses - Abdul Rasheed, Muhammad Shahid, Muhammad Ramzan, Zahid Essa Khokhar and Abdul Salam Soomro - have given graphic details of the happening and have identified the accused in an identification parade and at trial, submitted SPP Buriro. They also testified about terror, fear and insecurity after the incident, he added.

Referring to video footage of the killing, which in fact laid bare the details of the incident, the SPP submitted that independent witnesses from Pakistan Television had in their expert opinion termed the video as “original, unedited and without any cut or paste”. Referring to statements from two voluntary witnesses, Gul Naz and Muhammad Shaheen Javed, the SPP said they in fact represented terrified citizens who witnessed the video clips on television channels and felt danger for other citizens at the hands of gun-wielding men in uniform.

The SPP also raised objections to the testimony of Alam Zaib, who confessed to having a girlfriend and being at the park with her at the time. Alam Zaib’s testimony cannot be believed as his character does not conform to the Islamic way of life, the SPP argued.

About the statement of Colonel Salman of the Pakistan Rangers, the SPP said that the officer had no authority from his superiors to testify in favour of the accused. The accused never worked under his command and Colonel Salman was unable to show his service card even though he was given enough time to do so. He said this witness was also unreliable.

Relying on the chemical examiner and ballistics experts’ report, the SPP said that the bullet casing from a test and those collected from the crime scene connected the main accused Shahid Zafar to the killing of Sarfraz Shah. The accused all had the common intention to murder a common citizen and did not deserve any leniency, the SPP said, seeking exemplary punishment for the accused.

Earlier, Shaukat Hayat, the lawyer for driver Manthar Ali, had in his arguments prayed for an acquittal and particularly his two clients Shahid Zafar and Afzal Khan, submitting that the prosecution’s case was full of unexplained delays and contradictions.

Raising the issue of jurisdiction, Hayat said that the prosecution had suppressed the Joint Investigation report which excluded the element of “terrorism” in the incident.

The investigators and prosecution also suppressed the initial incident of a foiled robbery attempt by Sarfraz Shah. The victims, Alam Zaib and his girlfriend, were not examined and were kept out of court with mala fide intention, he submitted.

Referring to the definition of terrorism and its ingredients, Hayat argued that the events which unfolded show that there was no planning, no target, no objectives involved and at the most, it was a case of an “accident”.

The IO, especially deputed by the Supreme Court in its suo motu action, manufactured the evidence to make the case triable by an anti-terrorism court, he submitted.

The defence counsel also pointed to ambiguities and contradictions in the evidence collected by the investigators and reports by the chemical examiner and ballistics expert. Concluding his arguments, he submitted that the accused were armed with four G-3 rifles, their mobile unit was fitted with a sub-machine gun and if they had any terrorism on their minds, Shaheed Benazir Bhutto Park would have been littered with human bodies and flesh. In contrast, the conduct of the accused was of human beings as they took the injured Sarfraz Shah to hospital and remained present while he was treated. The cause of death was also excessive bleeding, he added, wrapping up his defence and pleading for an acquittal.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 10th, 2011.