In a startling revelation, eight of the 10 militants jailed for life over involvement in the 2012 near-fatal attack on Malala Yousafzai have been freed, media reports revealed on Friday.
“It was the court’s decision to frame charges against two of the 10 accused and release eight others,” security officials said, refuting claims that attackers in Malala’s case were released as part of a deal.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, Regional Police Officer (RPO) Maland Division, Azad Khan, said, “An anti-terrorism court had sentenced two attackers, lIsarur Rehman and Izharullah, to life imprisonment, the rest of the eight alleged attackers Shaukat, Irfan, Suleman, Bilal, Zafar Ali, Arafat, Ikran and Adnan were set free.”
The courts are free to make their decisions, the police official said.
“The case was not hidden and its details were all on the record of the judiciary,” he added, claiming the attackers might have been released because the decision of the court must have reached the jail administration.
Confirming his statement, District Police Officer (DPO) Saleem Marwat said that the judiciary made its decision and there were no covert deals.
“The two attackers charged were sent in District Haripur jail and were serving their sentence,” he added.
Citing senior security sources, the Daily Mirror reported that the prison sentences for the 10 accused were “a tactic to get the media pressure away from the Malala case, because the whole world wanted convictions for the crime.”
“Only two of those accused of being behind the plot to assassinate the schoolgirl, who spoke out against Taliban oppression of female education, are serving the 25 years the authorities claimed the whole gang were given,” the Daily Mirror claimed.
Muneer Ahmed, a spokesperson for the Pakistani High Commission in London, said on Friday that the eight men were acquitted because of a lack of evidence.
Ahmed claimed that the original court judgement made it clear only two men had been convicted and blamed the confusion on misreporting.
The Daily Mirror’s source added, “The trial had absolutely no credibility as nobody was there to witness it but a public prosecutor, a judge, the army and the accused.”
“But the truth is that, whether these acquitted men were involved or not in the Malala shooting, the public has been lied to,” the source alleged.
Further, the source said, “Ten men are not behind bars for the crime, as the Pakistani authorities would have us believe. That is a big lie.”
A security source told the BBC, the trial was held at a military facility rather than a court and was shrouded in secrecy.
“The authorities did not make the judgement available at any stage, nor did they correct the reports over the past two months that 10 men had been convicted,” BBC reported.
The announcement of the convictions in April took many by surprise as no one was aware the trial was taking place. Further, authorities did not say when and where the men had been arrested or how they were linked to the attack, or explain the charges against them.
Ten militants involved in the 2012 near-fatal attack on Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai were jailed for 25 years each by an anti-terrorism court in Swat on April 30. ATC Mingora Judge Muhammad Amin Kondi sentenced all the militants to life imprisonment for planning and shooting the teenage education activist in an attack that had triggered a global outcry.
The convicted militants – identified as Zafar Iqbal, Adnan, Salman, Irfan, Hazrat Bilal, Izhar, Zafar Ali, Shaukat Ali, Ikram and Israr Rehman – were arrested in September last year during raids in the Nawakaley, Ningolai and Fizagat areas of Swat.
The militants admitted TTP chief Mullah Fazlullah had masterminded the attack on Malala, which also left her two friends, Shazia Ramzan and Kainat Riaz, injured, according to the military.