Karachi: ATC rejects Rangers men’s plea for transfer of trial
Karachi: An anti-terrorism court dismissed on Saturday six Rangers personnel’s application for the transfer of trial in Sarfaraz Shah’s extrajudicial killing case.
Sub-Inspector Bahur Rehman, Lance Naik Liaquat Ali, constables Mohammad Tariq, Minthar Ali, Shahid Zafar and Mohammad Afzal and a private contractor, Afsar Khan, have been charged under the anti-terrorism law with murdering 22-year-old Shah with their common intention in the Shaheed Benazir Bhutto Park in the Clifton area on June 8.
“This court is very much competent to try the present case,” ATC judge Bashir Ahmed Khoso observed while dismissing the defence application for the transfer of the trial from the anti-terrorism court to a sessions court.
Earlier, the defendants’ counsel, Shaukat Hayat, Naimat Ali Randhawa, MR Syed and Amir Nawaz Warraich, filing the application for the transfer of the trial, submitted that the ATC had no jurisdiction to try the case as facts and circumstances of the case had no nexus with the act of terrorism as defined under Section 6 of the anti-terrorism law, allegedly committed by the Rangers personnel inside the park during the discharge of their lawful duty under the lawful command.
They argued that the alleged occurrence admittedly took place inside the park and there was no public available in the garden; therefore, the element of striking terror or creating fear and panic did not arise in the instant case. They submitted that under the provision of Section 5 (3) of the Anti-Terrorism Act and some sections of the Criminal Procedure Code the members of the armed forces doing their duties were fully protected against the prosecution instituted in any criminal act.
They contended that from the video clip and other record it was clear that the accused did not fire on the vital part of the deceased which showed that the accused had no intention to commit murder.
Even otherwise, they argued, the offence fell under Section 319 PPC, which was triable by the regular court instead of an anti-terrorism court, they said.
Special Public Prosecutor Mohammad Khan Buriro opposed the application, contending that the case was transferred to the anti-terrorism court following an observation of a five-member bench of the Supreme Court that took suo moto notice of the matter. The apex court’s observation was challenged neither by the police nor by any other law enforcement agency in the review petition; therefore, the SC’s observation in the judgment was still in the field, he said.
He submitted that being the personnel of a law enforcement agency the defendants violated the very spirit of articles 9 and 4 of the Constitution that “guarantee protection of the right of individual and security of the person that no person shall be deprived of life or liberty save in accordance with the law”.
The special public prosecutor submitted that the defendants fired on an unarmed person who was surrounded by them and he only begged for his life instead of trying to escape. He said that this was not the case of a single person but of the entire nation as the incident had stunned people from every walk of life, including the parliament, and due to this individual act of the defendants the honour of the law enforcement agency had been put at stake. He submitted that the act of the defendants “falls under the definition of terrorism” as this act created a sense of fear and insecurity in society. He prayed to the court to dismiss the application.
The court observed: “This incident was very much seen by the public, so much so that the cameraman of one TV channel was present there and recorded the entire episode of the committing of the murder of the deceased, which was shown on almost all the TV channels.
“In this video clip the deceased is shown empty-handed, entreating accused persons and begging for his life. Despite that the accused fired upon him. Such act had hit the heart of every person who has seen this clip on TV.”
The court observed that because of such circumstances the Supreme Court in its order had clearly mentioned that the matter seemed to attract prima facie Section 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act-1997, and “as such this court is very much competent to try the present case”.
“For the above reasons, I am of the considered view that these applications are without substance and the same are dismissed,” the judge observed.
The trial has been adjourned till Monday and the special public prosecutor has been directed to produce the prosecution witnesses. According to the prosecution, Sarfaraz Shah, a brother of a local TV journalist, was killed in cold blood by the Rangers personnel on June 8 when he was handed over to them by the private contractor, Afsar Khan, who accused him of committing theft and looting.
However, TV footage showed that the Rangers personnel shot the unarmed Shah twice and after injuring him they let him die instead of shifting him to hospital for medical treatment. The airing of the footage by TV channels shocked the entire nation and caused anger against this act of the law enforcement agency’s personnel.
The Rangers personnel and the private contractor were arrested under the anti-terrorism law and murder charges under the Pakistan Penal Code after the Supreme Court took suo moto notice of the brutal murder.
The Boat Basin police registered a case against the accused under sections 302, 34, and 36 of the Pakistan Penal Code read with Section 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act.
The police have charge-sheeted the accused for deliberately murdering Shah, submitting that the accused first caused injuries to the young man with their common intention and by the act of commission of omission they denied medical treatment to him, as a result which he succumbed to his injuries.
The prosecution has named 46 witnesses, including two eyewitnesses, in the charge sheet in addition to a list of 14 articles, including the crime weapon, to prove the guilt of the accused.
The trial has to be concluded within 30 days as per the directives of the Supreme Court, which has ordered that the trial be conducted on a day-to-day basis and completed within a month.