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Shahzeb murder case: SC asks what constitutes terrorism?

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The Supreme Court (SC) of Pakistan on Wednesday reviewed the petition filed by civil rights activists concerning the Shahzeb Khan murder case. The SC has reviewed 421 petitions by activists to retry Shahrukh Jatoi and his accomplices in the Shahzeb Khan murder case because the Sindh High Court (SHC) in November 2017 had set aside his punishment and ordered a retrial in a session’s court.

On December 24th, 2012, 20-year-old Shahzeb Khan, the son of Deputy Superintendent of Police Aurangzeb Khan, was gunned down in Karachi’s Defence Housing Authority by Shahrukh Jatoi and his accomplices. On 7 June, 2013, Shahrukh Jatoi was awarded death sentence by an Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC). Shahzeb’s family pardoned Shahrukh on 9th September, 2013 but pardons are not accepted in the ATC.

They requested the people to focus their efforts against changing the laws that privatize justice and provide a safe haven to culprits, rather than force the courts to use a law wrongfully against someone.

Shahrukh Jatoi filed a review petition in the SHC on 17th August 2016 to remove the Anti-Terrorism clause from his case since it was an issue of personal enmity. The SHC accepted his petition on 28th November 2017 and declared that the reason for the murder was personal enmity. It ordered the removal of anti-terrorism clauses from the case, revoked the punishments awarded by the ATC and ordered a retrial of the cases in a session’s court.

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The retrial of the case resulted in a huge outcry on social media by civil and human rights activists, and an appeal was filed in the SC. The appeal states that the killing of Shahzeb Khan “created a sense of helplessness and insecurity amongst the people of Defence/Clifton,” and among the people of Karachi and Pakistan in general. The applicants state that the case fulfils the provisions of Section 6 of the Anti-Terrorism Act 1997 so it should be tried under the Anti-Terrorism Court.

The legal experts are of the opinion that this case doesn’t fulfil the criteria of terrorism and forcing it to be tried in the ATC will create a wrong precedent. They suggest that the laws that protect the rich and powerful need to change.

The Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar inquired during the hearing whether the SC has the right to question a verdict given by the SHC, to which he was assured by the prosecution lawyer Faisal Siddiqui that the SC had the right. Justice Asif Saeed Khosa explained that there are two issues that need to be addressed: what constitutes terrorism and whether the Sindh High Court had already settled the issue of the applicability of terrorism?

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Shahzeb’s gruesome murder created a huge outcry among media, political and human rights circles. One of the reasons for the strong reaction in this case was the influential family of Shahrukh and the apparent luxuries he enjoyed during his incarceration. Civil society activists label Shahzeb’s murder as the most typical example of social injustice in Pakistani society. They believe that justice cannot prevail unless the lawlessness created by influential people in society is controlled and everyone is made equal before the eyes of the law.

The pardon could be revoked under Section 311 of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) which states that if the murder is shocking or if it outrages the public conscience, then the court, in its wisdom

According to media sources, there is a great demand for the trial to be held in the Anti-Terrorism Court after the SHC’s decision to remove the anti-terrorism clauses from the case. They believe that Shahzeb’s case has created a sense of fear and helplessness among the general public, and it fulfils the criteria of terrorism. Media sources report that the demand for the anti-terrorism clauses to be included is the result of the impotency that the public feels against the influential members of society.

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Legal experts explained that even though Shahzeb’s family has pardoned Jatoi, the pardon could be revoked under Section 311 of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) which states that if the murder is shocking or if it outrages the public conscience, then the court, in its wisdom, may forbid any forgiveness or a payout, and send the defendant to jail.

The legal experts are of the opinion that this case doesn’t fulfil the criteria of terrorism and forcing it to be tried in the ATC will create a wrong precedent. They requested the people to focus their efforts against changing the laws that privatize justice and provide a safe haven to culprits, rather than force the courts to use a law wrongfully against someone. They suggest that the laws that protect the rich and powerful need to change.


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