The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Wednesday set aside the conviction of Muttahida Quami Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) leader Amir Khan — a former general secretary of the Mohajir Quami Movement-Haqiqi — and his then Haqiqi associate in a 17-year-old double murder case of activists of the then MQM.
Khan was sentenced to 10 years in jail by an anti-terrorism court (ATC) in Karachi on December 15, 2004, for abetting co-accused Tariq, alias Bata, Raees and Nazim in killing two activists of their then rival MQM on June 23, 2003. The co-accused were awarded life terms and other punishments.
According to the prosecution, an FIR was lodged at the Landhi police station on July 2, 2003, in which it was claimed that Khan and others had killed MQM activists Mohammad Naeem and Anam Uzair during the by-elections for Karachi’s National Assembly constituency NA-255 (Landhi).
The appellants’ counsel Syed Mehmood Alam Rizvi said Khan was implicated in the case on the basis of political rivalry because he was the then Haqiqi leader, and witnesses were set up before the court to give testimony against him.
Rizvi said the FIR was registered after an unexplained delay of over a week to implicate Khan in the case, and the identification parade was irrelevant because his client was well-known.
The counsel reiterated that there was rivalry between the Haqiqi faction and the then MQM, which led to the false case being concocted against the appellants. He said the medical evidence also did not support the prosecution’s case, and one of the clients had spent 17 years in prison in a fabricated case. He requested that the court acquit him of all charges.
The additional prosecutor general supported the ATC’s impugned judgment, and said the complainant was Naeem, who was wounded in the attack but later succumbed to his injuries. He said the delay in FIR was due to the complainant not being in a position to record his statement.
He said the prosecution had proved its case against both the appellants, and requested that the court dismiss the appeals and enhance the sentences to capital punishment.
The SHC’s division bench headed by Justice Mohammad Karim Khan Agha said that it is an admitted position in the evidence that enmity, rivalry and ill-will existed between the appellants and the eyewitnesses because they represented different factions of the MQM and were electioneering for different candidates in a hotly contested by-election.
The judge said the eyewitnesses had every reason to falsely implicate the appellants, especially because their faction was then a part of the government in Sindh.
He said the prosecution witnesses were all interested witnesses with an axe to grind against the appellants, so their evidence must be regarded with great care and caution, as none of them provided a sketch of co-accused Tariq and had only caught a fleeting glimpse of him from a distance of 20 feet.
He also said the evidence of the prosecution witnesses strongly indicated that they were working on the instructions of the MQM headquarters Nine Zero in preparing statements against the appellants over the period between the incident and the FIR’s registration to falsely implicate them.
The judge said that significant improvements had been made by the prosecution witnesses, and no weapon used in the incident was recovered from Tariq that could link him to the scene of the crime.
He said that if Khan had ordered the killing, why Tariq did not kill the driver of the van Mohammad Shahid instead of leaving him behind as a potential witness against him. He also said the evidence of the eyewitnesses could not be relied upon, which, coupled with the unexplained delay in the lodging of the FIR and the lack of supportive and corroborative evidence, gave the benefit of the doubt to the appellants.
The judge set aside the life imprisonment sentence of Tariq and the 10-year imprisonment of Khan and acquitted them of all charges. He also dismissed the state’s appeal for the enhancement of the sentence. On August 13, 2009, the SHC had suspended the sentence of Khan and released him on bail during the pendency of his appeal.