The Sindh High Court on Monday commuted capital punishment awarded to two prime accused in the Shahzeb Khan murder case – Shahrukh Jatoi and Siraj Talpur – to life imprisonment.
The high court also upheld the life imprisonment sentence awarded to two other accused, Sajjad Talpur and Ghulam Murtaza Lashari. The decision was announced by Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar and Justice Nazar Akbar on review appeals filed by the accused.
During the hearing, the counsel representing the state pointed out that the prime accused was declared an adult aged above 18 years by a medical board. “Shahrukh’s case cannot be tried under juvenile laws,” he argued.
Shahrukh’s lawyer said the families of the victim and the accused had reached an agreement and requested the court to acquit all the accused. “The victim’s father has passed away and his mother and sisters have moved abroad.”
Shahzeb Khan, the 20-year-old son of former Deputy Superintendent of Police Aurangzeb Khan, was gunned down in Karachi’s Defence Housing Authority (DHA) area on the night of December 24, 2012.
Shahzeb had returned home from a wedding with his family when an employee of the accused verbally harassed his sister. He confronted the accused and demanded an apology.
The accused, however, were remorseless and refused to apologise for the behaviour of their employee. Soon after, Shahzeb left his house in his car and was on Saba Avenue when the accused chased him down and shot him dead in public.
The murder sparked outrage across the country leading to then chief justice, Iftikhar Chaudhry, taking a suo motu notice.
In July 2013, an anti-terrorism court (ATC) in Karachi awarded the death penalty to Shahrukh and Siraj, while Sajjad and Ghulam were given life imprisonment. Shahrukh was handed down an additional three years in prison for illegal possession of a weapon. The ATC directed the convicts to pay a Rs500,000 fine each.
A few months after the verdict, however, the victim’s father granted a pardon to the accused. Reportedly, the pardon was granted under duress.
In November 2017, the SHC decided on a criminal review petition and set aside the capital punishment awarded to the accused and ordered a retrial. The defence counsel had argued for the terrorism charges to be dropped considering the prime suspect was a juvenile at the time of the offence.
In February 2018, the Supreme Court turned petitions by civil society into a suo motu notice and set aside the 2017 SHC decision ordering a retrial.
The apex court also restored terrorism charges framed against the accused – Shahrukh, Siraj and Sajjad – which had been removed by the SHC. The SC bench ruled that bails granted to the accused by the sessions court were against the law.
Shortly after the verdict was announced, the accused were taken into custody in Islamabad and handed over to the Sindh Police. Their names were also placed on the Exit Control List.
This is a developing story and will be updated accordingly.