Trial court for Pearl case changed
KARACHI- The government on Friday changed the trial court for proceeding against the accused in Daniel Pearl murder case. Judge Abdul Ghafoor Memon of the ATC-II will now hear the case in Karachi Central Prison, instead of Judge Arshad Noor Khan of the ATC-III.
The decision was taken by the Chief Justice of the Sindh High Court, Saiyed Saeed Ashhad, after the division bench he was presiding over allowed the application of the principal accused Ahmad Saeed Omar Shaikh who had raised a point contending that Judge Arshad Noor Khan was not competent to try the case, because according to the challan, he had himself become a witness.
The bench comprised chief justice of the Sindh High Court and Justice Ghulam Rabbani.
At the outset of the proceedings on Friday, the state agreed to transfer trial of the case from the court of Judge Arshad Noor to any other judge of the Anti-terrorism Court, provided it did not cause a delay in the trial, which is to commence on April 22 in Karachi Central Prison.
The position was taken by Sindh advocate-general Raja Qureshi when application of Omar Shaikh came up before the division bench.
Mr Qureshi said the decision was taken to enhance transparency and impartiality of the trial.
Counsel for Omar Shaikh, Mr Abdul Waheed Katpar, cited various cases in support of his contention that Mr Arshad Noor Khan cannot try the case because in the list of prosecution witnesses the note in the margin against PWs 17 to 20 made the judge a witness.
Mr Abdul Hafeez Lakho, a former advocate-general who was appointed amicus curiae, was also supportive of the idea of transferring the case. He said in view of the citations, there would be no harm if the case was transferred to another judge.
Mr Katpar had relied on Article 4 (c) of Qanoon-i-Shahadat. The advocate-general contended that answer to clause 4 was available in 304 (a) Pakistan Panel Code (PPC), which pertained to proof of Qatl-i-Amd.
Counsel Abdul Waheed Katpar had contended that in the list of prosecution witnesses the note in the margin against PWs 17 to 20 made the notified judge a witness. He also cited text of the challan in support of his contention.
The counsel had maintained that it was stated in the margin against the four PWs under a bracket that when accused Omar Shaikh was taken to the court of Judge Arshad Noor Khan for obtaining his remand, the principal accused had stated: “I have abducted Daniel Pearl”; “Daniel Pearl is dead”; “I do not wish to defend myself”, and “I know I will be extradited to the US”.
Thus the prosecution had itself made Mr Arshad Noor Khan a witness in the case. It was immaterial whether they examine him as a witness or not. The fact remained that Judge Khan had been made a witness in the case, the applicant had claimed.