KARACHI: After hearing the case for almost a year, an anti-terrorism court (ATC) sentenced to death on Monday a Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) worker, Syed Asif Ali, after convicting him for the murder of his comrade, Waqas Shah.
Shah, 25, was shot dead under mysterious circumstances during a protest on March 11 last year when the Rangers raided the MQM headquarters, Nine Zero, and claimed the arrest of a number of wanted criminals along with weapons.
ATC-IX judge Farman Ali Kanasro, who presided over the 10-month-long trial, pronounced the verdict against Ali citing the testimonies of two paramilitary personnel and other documentary evidences like the forensic science laboratory’s report of the weapon used in the commission of the offence.
Ali was reportedly arrested some three months after the Nine Zero raid in an intelligence-based operation from Shahdadpur area of Sindh. According to the paramilitary force, the suspect had fled the city after the killing and MQM leaders Farooq Sattar and Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui knew about his involvement but remained tightlipped.
The MQM had refuted the allegations and referred to footage of the incident in which some paramilitary personnel resorted to aerial firing to disperse protesters while one soldier pointed his gun towards the place where Shah was standing.
Meanwhile, a similar video was also aired in which Ali was seen standing beside Shah. The Rangers then fire into the air and both try to take cover near the gate of a house. Ali is then seen pulling something out of his belt, believed to be a gun. Later, Shah is seen lying on the ground in a pool of blood.
According to the post mortem report, Shah suffered a single bullet in his cheekbone which pierced through the back of his head. He died before he could be shifted to a hospital. During the trial, the prosecution told the judge that Ali, after his arrest, led investigators to where he had buried the 9mm pistol used in the offence. The weapon tested positive against the empties found from the crime scene.
Ali was also identified by the two eye-witnesses – Inspector Farhan and Constable Ansar of the Rangers – before a judicial magistrate. They also testified before the trial court judge against the accused deposing that they saw him firing at Shah with a handgun.
Advocate Lateefuddin Pasha of the MQM’s legal aid committee, who represented the accused, argued before the judge that his client was falsely implicated. He maintained that it was the paramilitary personnel who shot at Shah.
He also argued against the Rangers’ claim of arresting Ali from interior Sindh, asserting that he was picked up from Karachi following the March 11 raid. The defence also brought on record a flash drive containing footage of the incident. The judge, however, observed that the videos did not help in reaching any conclusion.
Reading the verdict, the judge said the prosecution successfully proved its case beyond any shadow of doubt. The evidences put forward supported the prosecution’s case while the defence could not prove its contentions, he added.
The judge awarded Ali a death sentence and also ordered him to pay a compensation of Rs0.5 million to Shah’s legal heirs. The judge also announced a seven-year jail term for possessing an unlicensed weapon and directed the convict to pay a Rs50,000 fine.
Reacting to the verdict, the MQM denounced the conviction and called it a “murder of justice”. A statement issued by the party stated that sentencing Ali to death was a violation of the law and the Constitution. “[The verdict] is part of the maligning campaign against the MQM,” it added.