Suspects remanded in Pearl case
KARACHI- Justice Shabbir Ahmed of the Sindh High Court remanded on Tuesday the three suspects in the kidnapping of the Wall Street Journal’s journalist Daniel Pearl in police custody for 14 days, after the controversy over jurisdiction was resolved following submissions by the Sindh advocate-general.
On Monday Justice Ahmed had declined to accord remand on the point that the amended ordinance 2002, pertaining to the Anti-terrorism Act, had come into force “at once” whereupon he had ceased to be the administrative judge of the anti-terrorism courts at Karachi, and he could not grant remand. He had given the Advocate-General, Raja Qureshi, one day to satisfy him on the point of jurisdiction and to produce notification of his appointment as administrative judge.
Foreign electronic media swarmed the court premises when about 10:30 in the morning the suspects, Salman Saqib, Fahd and Adil Shaikh, were brought to the High Court handcuffed and their faces covered, amid tight security in police mobiles. Senior police officials, including the investigation officer, Hamidullah, accompanied them. They were soon ushered into the chamber of the judge, followed by Khwaja Naveed Ahmed, counsel for one of the accused.
When the matter came up before Justice Ahmed, the AG produced the notification and relied upon article 246 (e) of the constitution, which envisaged the effect of repeal of law.
His further contention was that by operation of law and section 6 of the General Clauses Act, till such time the reconstituted courts were notified, the administrative judge would continue to be invested with the powers of granting remand.
The main thrust of the AG was, that no forum was available, and if no remand was accorded to the investigating agency, the recovery of the “hostage” would become impossible, confessional statement would not be recorded, identification parade would not be held and recovery of other incriminating materials would not be possible.
This particular section also states that “and any such investigation, legal proceeding or remedy, my be instituted, continued or enforced and any such penalty, forfeiture or punishment may be imposed as if the repealing Act or regulation had not been passed.”
Justice Ahmed examined the effect of repeal, with the assistance of the advocate-general, who had contended that repeal would not affect any investigation, legal proceeding or remedy in respect of any such right, privilege, obligation, liability, penalty, forfeiture or punishment and any such investigation, legal proceedings or remedy might be instituted, continued or enforced on the basis of clause (e) of article 264 of the constitution.
Justice Ahmed, in his order as administrative judge of the ATCs, held that “since the matter is under investigation and the investigation cannot be conducted unless police remand of the accused is granted for the purpose of investigation, a vacuum cannot be allowed to creep. Therefore, I am of the view that this court can grant remand in spite of repeal of the provisions till reconstitution of the Anti-terrorism court is duly notified.”
After the jurisdiction issue was resolved, Justice Ahmed inquired from the IO what was the charge against the three persons. The IO disclosed that they had sent e- mails which they had themselves admitted. Fahd was arrested at 11:30am on Feb 11, Salman Saqib about 1:30am, and Adil at 4:30am on Feb 12.
The accused were asked one by one whether they were maltreated by police during police custody. All of them, in the presence of Khwaja Naveed, counsel for one of them, stated that they had not been maltreated. One of the accused, Salman Saqib, was limping. He had stated that it was due to a gunshot injury sustained by him about two and a half years ago.
The three accused were arrested in Gulistan-i-Jauhar for their alleged involvement in sending e-mail messages containing the abducted journalist’s pictures in captivity, allegedly on the instructions of the prime suspect, Shaikh Omar Saeed. Their arrest was in connection with the abduction of Daniel Pearl, under First Information Report (FIR) No 24/2002 which was registered on Feb 4 at Artillery Maidan police station under section 365-A of Pakistan Panel Code (PPC).
The complainant, Daniel’s wife, complained that certain e-mail messages, including pictures of her husband, were received by her and that her husband was being kept in inhuman conditions.