An Anti-Terrorism Court in Karachi has handed down the death penalty to a Ranger accused of extrajudicial murder of a 22-year-old boy in Karachi in June.
At the final hearing of the two-month-long case on Friday, ATC-I judge Bashir Ahmed Khoso found accused Shahid Zafar, of the Abdullah Shah Ghazi unit of Pakistan Rangers, guilty of causing fatal injury to deceased Sarfraz Shah and sentenced him to death. Zafar, 35, has also been ordered to pay compensation worth Rs200,000 to Shah’s legal heirs.
Five other members of the same Pakistan Rangers unit and a civilian Afsar Khan were sentenced to life imprisonment and ordered to pay Rs100,000 each to Shah’s heirs.
Rangers, the judgment said, are supposed to be “protectors in whose presence people feel safe and secure and if protectors become perpetrators … it would certainly damage the perception of the general public about their action[s].”
Footage of the brutal killing, filmed by a television cameraman, was aired by all news channels and sparked public fury. So extreme was the outrage that the government took the rare step of removing the provincial chiefs of police and rangers in Karachi. More than 10,000 rangers patrol Karachi routinely.
“This act [of the accused] not only damaged the reputation of an institution designed to protect people and property but also created a sense of insecurity at a large scale,” Khoso said, while announcing the verdict.
Relying on a number of case laws, the court held that “the acts of [the] accused were beyond any reasonable doubt and fell under provisions of Section 6 of Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) 1997 punishable under Section 7(a) of the said act”.
The court also reproduced the definition of terrorism: “Terrorism means the use of threat or action where the action falls within the meaning of sub-section (2) of Section 6 of ATA and creates a serious risk to safety of the public or a section of the public, or is designed to frighten the general public and thereby preventing them from coming out and carrying on their lawful trade and daily business and disrupt civil life”.
The prosecution has proved its case beyond reasonable doubt against the accused persons who failed to rebut the charges, the judgement said. “I, therefore, find all the accused guilty of murder of deceased Sarfraz Shah, an offence punishable under Section 7(a) of ATA 1997 read with Section 302 and Section 34 of the Pakistan Penal Code,” the judge pronounced.
The prosecution examined 20 witnesses in the case, five of whom were present at the time of killing, including the cameraman who filmed the incident. The defence produced only a few witnesses and all the accused refused to be examined on oath.
Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry has also taken suo motu notice of the incident. The Supreme Court, declaring that “prima facie the incident falls within the ambit of terrorism”, appointed DIG Sultan A Khawaja as investigating officer. Investigators have been directed to submit a charge-sheet before the court.
Meanwhile, government prosecutor Mohammed Khan Buriro called the decision historic. “It shows no one is above the law,” he said. (With additional input from AFP)
Published in The Express Tribune, August 13th, 2011.