ISLAMABAD, (MANEND NEWS): The Supreme Court of Pakistan on
Tuesday directed authorities to move Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, the
prime accused in the 2002 killing of American journalist Daniel Pearl,
from a death cell in the Karachi Central Prison to a government rest
house within the next two to three days.
The apex court also directed authorities to ensure complete security of
the rest house, and allowed Sheikh’s family access to him from 8:00
AM to 5:00 PM, while hearing a petition filed by the accused against
his detention despite high court orders in this regard.
The accused, however, will not be given access to mobile and internet
services while his family will be given accommodation and transport on
the government’s expense, according to the court’s directives.
On January 28, by a majority of two to one, the apex court had upheld
the Sindh High Court’s acquittal of Sheikh for Pearl’s murder and
ordered his release if he was not wanted in any other case.
A day earlier, Attorney General for Pakistan Barrister Khalid Jawed
Khan appeared before a three-judge SC bench, headed by Justice
Umar Ata Bandial, to highlight that the high court had barred the
federal government from issuing any preventive detention order when
there was a mandatory requirement to issue a notice and hear the AG
before issuing such orders.
The Supreme Court, however, preferred to maintain the status quo for
a day instead of granting any stay against the SHC order in which the
federal and provincial governments were directed not to issue any
preventive detention order without prior permission of the high court.
The high court had also directed that all the accused — Sheikh, Fahad
Nasim Ahmed, Syed Salman Saqib and Sheikh Muhammad Adil — be
released from jail forthwith on the receipt of the order unless they
were wanted in any other custody case.
During Tuesday’s hearing, the attorney general told the court that the
country had been affected by terrorism during the past 20 years.
“Tragedies such as those at the Army Public School and in Mach have
not occurred anywhere else in the world. Omer Sheikh is not an
accused but a terrorist mastermind.”
Justice Umar Ata Bandial responded by asking the attorney general to
prove Sheikh’s terrorist links. “How does he relate to the incidents you
have mentioned?” the judge asked.
The attorney general responded by saying that the state was of the
opinion that the case against Sheikh was strong.
At this, Justice Muneeb Akhtar replied that until yesterday the attorney
general’s stance was that the SHC did not hear the federal
government. “From your arguments it seems that you no longer have
these objections,” the judge remarked.
However, the Sindh advocate general replied that the federal
government was not a party in the case heard by the high court.
“Did the Sindh government raise any objection in the high court
regarding this?” asked Justice Akhtar. The Sindh advocate general
replied that no objection was raised.
“The detention of the accused seems to be a provincial matter. The
federal government has delegated its authority to the provinces.
Therefore, it seems that only the Sindh advocate general needs to be
given notice,” Justice Akhtar said.
“The petitioner did not challenge a law which would warrant sending a
notice to the attorney general,” the judge remarked, adding that there
were no grounds for a notice to be sent to the attorney general.
The attorney general replied that the court could not deprive the
federal government of its powers. “There should also be proof before
exercising powers,” said Justice Shah, adding that the provincial
government did not have proof to keep the accused detained.
When the attorney general replied that it was possible the state was in
possession of such proof, the judge questioned why the material was
not handed over to the provincial government.
“It seems that the attorney general has not read the reasons for the
decision of the high court,” said Justice Shah.
Justice Bandial also asked the federal government to present the
evidence against the accused.
The attorney general informed the court that Sheikh held both
Pakistani and British citizenship and had studied at the London Schools
Justice Bandial remarked that Sheikh had been incarcerated for 18
years while the charges proven against him were for kidnapping.
“Keeping one detained means ‘no trial’,” he said, adding that it would
be wrong to accuse someone of being a terrorist without proof.
The Sindh Advocate General Salaman Talibuddin prayed before the
court that Sheikh could escape after his release.
“How can the federal government object to the decision of the Sindh
High Court?” Justice Muneeb Akhtar inquired, adding that it [the govt]
did not even challenge the SHC’s decision.
Bench member Justice Sajjad Ali Shah then asked whether the court
should justify the illegal detention. “Is it necessary to keep the
accused in jail to prevent them from escaping?” asked Justice Umar
Responding to the court’s remarks, the provincial AG replied that
detainees should not be allowed to stay with their families. “Sheikh
can contact his family members via cell phone,” the AG suggested.
To this, Justice Shah replied that according to the government, Sheikh
had already been using a cell phone in his jail. “We all know what
happens in jail,” the judge stated.
The assistant advocate prayed upon the apex bench to keep the
accused in Lahore. Moreover, the Sindh AG stated that Sheikh’s
accomplices could attack the rest house and help him escape.
“Two days are being given for the government to make proper security
arrangements,” Justice Bandial said.
To this, the AG replied that young soldiers were martyred while
fighting terrorists only a few days ago.
“There is no denying the sacrifices of the armed forces but we are
bound by the Constitution,” Justice Muneeb Akhtar replied.
Ahmed Omer and other detainees cannot be called accused, Justice
Umar Ata Bandial added.
“If Ahmed Omer and others are released, they will escape,” the AG
prayed. “Ground realities demand that release orders be suspended.”
The court adjourned the hearing saying the bench would be available
in two weeks.