SHC quashes convictions in Perween Rahman murder case, orders release of accused

The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Monday quashed the sentences of the accused in the Perween Rahman murder case and ordered their release, stating that there is no concrete evidence against the accused.

A two-member bench headed by Justice KK Agha issued a written decision on the appeals against the convictions of the accused. The court, accepting the appeal by the accused, said they should be released if they are not wanted in other cases.

Rahman, who was murdered in 2013, was a social activist and the of director the Orangi Pilot Project (OPP).

In the 38-paged written judgment issued today, the court has said that an important aspect of this case is the interview Rehman gave to a journalist in 2011, questioning whether that interview is admissible or not.

The interview in question was conducted in 2011 and aired after her murder.
The verdict further stated that the lawyers of the accused are of the opinion that legally the interview has no status, adding that they were also not given an opportunity to cross-examine on the interview of the victim.

Read: Video statement rejected as evidence in Parween murder case

The lawyers of the accused further stated that the victim had not recorded her statement before any court. Therefore, the court accepted the stand of the accused's lawyers that the interview was not admissible.

The court said that the deceased may have given the interview keeping in view the law and order situation in Karachi.

Furthermore, Babar Bakht, a member of the joint investigation team (JIT) of the case, also said in his statement that the victim had made general accusations against political parties in her interview, adding there is no specific charge against any of the accused who are facing the case.

The court order further stated that the prosecution has also not proved which political party the accused Rahim Swati belongs to.

The verdict stated that the bullet shells found at the crime scene match the pistol of accused Qari Bilal, who was killed in the police encounter, furthering that the bullet casings of the weapon with which Rehman was killed did not match the weapon of the accused.

The court also said that there has been no proof of any link between the accused and Bilal.

Also read: SC disposes off Parween Rehman murder case

The written judgment stated that the prosecution did not conduct any further investigation in this regard and hence the evidence was of no value.

The court also observed that the status of the JIT constituted in the murder case is no more than the challan of the case, stating that other points mentioned in the report had already come to light.

On the basis of the JIT report, the court cannot decide the punishment or innocence of an accused, the court furthered.

The verdict added that the charges of aiding and abetting the murder also are not proven, adding that the benefit of the doubt is given to the accused in the case.
Not one, many doubts have been found in the case, added the verdict terming the sentence awarded to the accused by the trial court null and void.

2021 verdict

After a hiatus of almost eight years, in December 2021, an anti-terrorism court (ATC) in Karachi sentenced four men to life in the murder case of the OPP head.
The verdict was announced by a special court at the Karachi Central Jail, where the accused including Raheem Swati, Ahmed Khan alias Pappu Kashmiri, Amjad Hussain, and Ayaz Swati were handed down double life terms for fatally shooting Rahman near her office in the metropolis.

The court sentenced three of them to 57 years and six months imprisonment while Raheem Swati to 50 years and his son Imran Swati — the fifth accused — to 7.5 years.

The judge of the ATC-VII also imposed a fine of Rs200,000 on each of them. The ATC had sentenced the accused to life imprisonment twice.

The murder

Rahman, a postgraduate diploma in housing, building and urban planning from the Institute of Housing Studies in Rotterdam, Netherlands, was killed on March 13, 2013, when four gunmen opened fire on her vehicle near Pirabad police station in Orangi Town, ending her 28-year-long career for advocating for land and basic services rights for the underprivileged.

She had been an outspoken critic of the land mafias in Karachi and their political patrons.

In 2020, a joint investigation team (JIT) had told the Supreme Court that the motive behind the killing of Rahman was land grabbing.

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