Additional District and Sessions Judge Malik Khizar Hayat Khan granted bail on Wednesday to a man accused of killing a former Lahore High Court (LHC) judge who had acquitted two Christians accused of blasphemy.
Judge Malik Khizar Hayat granted post arrest bail to accused Ahmed Sher on his application for post-arrest bail. The petitioner had contended that key prosecution witnesses had not turned up. The judge accepted the plea and granted Sher bail against furnishing bail bonds of Rs200,000 with two sureties.
The judge adjourned the case for an unspecified period.
Former LHC judge Arif Iqbal Hussain Bhatti had been killed on October 17, 1997. Earlier, he had acquitted Salamat Masih, 14, and Rehmat Masih, 46, on February 23, 1995 of having committed blasphemy.
The late judge’s son Ali Arif had lodged the FIR. It states that the complainant went to Bhatti’s chambers where Malik Hayat and Muzaffar Ali Butt were present. It said an unidentified man with a black beard and moustaches entered the chambers and shot his father and later fled.
Around six prosecution witnesses, including police officials, have recorded their statements in the murder trial of the accused but the three ocular witnesses, including Ali Arif, Malik Hayat and Muzaffar Ali Butt, had not recorded their statements in court despite numerous notices and warrants issued to present them before the court.
Charge were framed against the accused on May 20,2003. The judge had issued a proclamation to present the three ocular witnesses. Process server ASI Asghar Ali on January 7, 2010 submitted a report that none of the ocular witnesses were available at their given addresses. Ali reported that Malik Hayat shifted his house around 10 to 12 years ago with no forwarding address and Ali Arif and Arif Ali Maqbool had moved abroad. Two prosecution witnesses, namely Magistrate Pervaiz Akhtar Dar and Constable Muhammad Sarwar were reported to have died. The judge then deputed an SHO to ensure the availability of the three ocular witnesses but none of them had appeared before the court.
Judge Mazhar Khizar Hayat in his order said this was one of the oldest case in the court’s cause list and he was satisfied that there was no probability that the said witnesses will appear before the court in the near future. He said he had no option but to put the case in hibernation till the witnesses appeared before the court to resurrect the case.
Ahmed Sher is serving a death sentence in the District Central Jail for the murder of one Ghulam Abbas in Chakwal on November 9, 1998 for allegedly committing blasphemy. Sher was sentenced by the LHC Rawalpindi Bench. His appeal is pending before the Supreme Court in this case.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 29th, 2012.