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‘My son has been falsely implicated in a murder case,’ says a Pakistani Christian

By Sheraz Khurram Khan, Special Correspondent for ASSIST News Service in Pakistan
ANS (1/16/07) — A Christian man, whose son was convicted by Sessions judge Khushab Rao Sultan Ali Tahir on December 7, 2006 in a case involving murder of a Muslim man in September 2002, alleged on Sunday that his son had been falsely implicated in the case.

“My son was not even nominated in the Police First Information Report (FIR) no 124/2002 on the September 21, 2002 offence under section 302/395 of Pakistan Penal Code at police station Mitha Tiwana district Khushab. My son was implicated in the case following lodging of the FIR on a supplementary statement by the complainant, Muhammad Ismaeel,” said Dr. Zafar who approached ANS on Sunday, January 14.

Before the trouble started for his son, Zohaib Zafar, Dr. Zafar said he was running the Mariam Hospital under the aegis of a non-governmental organization in Joharabad.

He said the unfolding circumstances following implication of his son in the murder case forced them to leave the place and the work he was doing.

Fearing trouble, he said his daughter Zobia Zafar, his spouse Najma Zafar, and his son Zia Zafar, had flown to Malaysia and their case for asylum is pending with United Nation High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). He said while he was living in a Christian village at present his son was living in a city away from him.

He added ever since the case his family life had been ruined and “we are suffering from acute tension”.

Names of the accused including Hassan Akhtar, Muhammad Ayaz, Ali Sheraz and two unidentified people featured on the FIR and “my son Zohaib Zafar was implicated in the case later by the way of a supplementary statement made by the complainant,” he said.

According to the FIR the above named accused went to Sharif (deceased) house at 9:15 pm on September 20, 2002 and said they wanted to hire his taxi no 7616/LOM for Noorpur.

The complainant stated in the FIR that no return of his brother on that night prompted him to launch search for him.

According to the information in the FIR when he approached Girote Chowk he met one Khalid Zia who told them he had seen a car that had met accident.

The complainant said in the FIR he found the dead body of his brother with his throat slit. He (the complainant) went to the Police Station at Mitha Tiwana and named the above accused without mentioning the Christian youth, Zohaib Zafar.

In a supplementary statement following lodging of the FIR the complainant claimed that Zohaib had also accompanied the accused and he had viewed him standing at a short distance.

Ismail, the complainant as well as the brother of the deceased stated in the court: “Ali Sheraz, Muhammad Ayaz, Hassan Akhtar, Khalid Shafi and Muhammad Aamer came in a taxi while the other two accused Azeem and Zohaib Zafar boarded in the Suzuki car”.

Ismaeel’s brother Hanif, said in the court that he saw Hassan Akhtar, Ali Sheraz, Muhammad Ayaz, Khalid Shafi and Muhammad Aamer present near the door while Zohaib Zafar and Azeem (the accused) were standing at a short distance with a car and they identified them.

He maintained in his statement that while the other accused took Sharif in a taxi no 7616/LOM saying, “Zohaib Zafar and Azeem also went after them in a separate car.”

While recording his statement in the court Zohaib Zafar stated: “My name is not mentioned in the FIR. The description given in the FIR has no resemblance with me. I have no relationship or friendship with other accused persons and absolutely I have no motive against the deceased. I am from different caste and religion. I was never put to identification test. All the prosecution witnesses are related inter se and they have falsely deposed against me.”

The defense lawyer argued that it was an unseen occurrence and prosecution relied upon circumstantial evidence, which is of weak type of evidence. In this instant case there was no identification parade although two accused persons were nominated unknown in FIR.

“The features of two unknown persons were although given in FIR but there is no effort on the part of prosecution to identify remaining accused Zohaib Zafar, Aamer, Azeem and Khalid Shafi through identification parade or before court”

He further argued that the complainant and Prosecution witness are bothers of the deceased and interested witnesses and they cannot be considered witnesses. He further argued that the investigation officer investigated the case dishonestly.

The Police claimed that the accused including Zohaib Zafar led them to a place from there they recovered a dagger, registration of car and driving license of the deceased.

The defense lawyer however, argued that recoveries were fake and fictitious where no public witness was joined from locality.

“Alleged recoveries of blood-stained daggers were effected after 15/16 days from an open place accessible to everybody and such recoveries after a considerable delay is of no legal significance particularly when there was no grouping of the blood which was available on daggers and other recovered articles from place of occurrence or shown to be recovered on the instance of accused,” the defense lawyer argued.

Session Judge Khushab Rao Sultan Ali Tahir in his judgment observed: “The case of Zohaib Zafar is identical with co-accused Aamer. He is not nominated in FIR but he was also seen along with co-accused Aamer and Ali Sheraz in the company of deceased Sharif at all the three places and time by three different set of witnesses. The crime weapon was also recovered on his instance, which was stained with human blood. He also got recovered registration of car and driving license of the deceased. Zohaib also made extra-judicial confession before Atta Muhammad s/o Ghulam Muhammad. The prosecution has sufficiently produced evidence in the shape of last seen, extra judicial confession, recovery of dagger and articles belonging to deceased from accused Zohaib Zafar. There is no motive on the part of the complainant and other prosecution witnesses to falsely implicate Zohaib Zafar or Muhammad Aamer in this case. The prosecutor also succeeded to prove case against Zohaib Zafar accused beyond any shadow of doubt.”

He maintained: “Consequently n the light of discussion, observations and findings the accused Al Sheraz (juvenile) Zohaib Zafar (juvenile) and Muhammad Aamer (adult) are hereby convicted u/s 302 (b)/34 Pakistan Penal Code for causing Qatle-Amad of Muhammad Sharif deceased with their common intention and sentenced imprisonments for life as Tazir for each. Each of them will also pay a compensation of Rs 100,000 to legal heirs of deceased Muhammad Sharif u/s 544-A of Cr.P.C. in default each accused with suffer six month S.I”.

Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS) Lawyer Justin Gill lodged appeal on 16-12-2006 on behalf of the petitioner against the judgment made by Session Judge Khushab Roa Sultan Ali Tahir in High Court on 7-12-2006.

“a) The appellant is innocent and has no any concern with the alleged murder. b)The learned trial court has badly failed to appreciate the evidence available on the record and while passing the above said judgment Honorable Trial Court has not applied its judicious mind c) That it was a blind murder and no eye witnesses has ever appeared before the learned trial court in support of the prosecution version even otherwise the evidence of Waj Takker and extra judicial confession is a weakest type of evidence which cannot be made a base for awarding the capital punishment to the appellant. d) That prosecution has failed to prove its case beyond any shadow of doubt e) That if the above said judgment and conviction is not set aside and petitioner s not acquitted then petitioner should suffer irreparable loss and great injustice would be caused to the appellant”, said the section of the appeal under a heading entitled grounds.”