British-Pakistani terrorist Omar Sheikh shifted from Karachi to Lahore jail

M Zulqernain
·3-min read

Lahore, Apr 9 (PTI) British-born al-Qaeda terrorist Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, who was on death row for 18 years before his acquittal last year in the sensational kidnapping and beheading of US journalist Daniel Pearl, has been shifted to Lahore's Kot Lakhpat jail from Karachi, officials said on Friday.

Pearl, the 38-year-old South Asia bureau chief for The Wall Street Journal, was abducted and beheaded while he was in Pakistan investigating a story in 2002 on the links between the country's powerful spy agency ISI and al-Qaeda.

An official of the Punjab government told PTI that 48-year-old Sheikh was brought here from Karachi by air on Thursday evening and shifted to Kot Lakhpat jail amid high security.

Sheikh is kept at a ‘rest house’ in the jail, he said. There are reports that Mumbai attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed is also kept at the same ‘rest house’.

Paramilitary Rangers and police personnel have been deployed outside the jail, the official said.

Sheikh has been shifted to Lahore following a Supreme Court’s directive.

The apex court last month had ordered shifting of Sheikh to Lahore on his petition against his continued detention despite being freed by the Sindh High Court in 2020 in the brutal murder of the US journalist.

Sheikh had submitted the application seeking his transfer from his death cell at the Karachi Central Prison to Lahore, where his family resides.

The Supreme Court had suggested that Sheikh could be moved to a GOR (Government Officers Residences) colony, which was a high-security area, directing the Punjab government to facilitate him (Sheikh) in accordance with court orders.

“The detainee Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh shall be accommodated in a government rest house with the provision of facilities for a normal life, albeit without access to the outside world through telephone, internet, etc,” the court order said.

On January 28, the Supreme Court — by a majority of two to one — had upheld the Sindh High Court's acquittal of Sheikh and ordered his release if he was not wanted in any other case.

The court had also directed that all the other accused — Fahad Nasim Ahmed, Syed Salman Saqib and Adil — be released forthwith unless they were wanted in any other case.

The Sindh government and parents of the slain journalist had appealed against the high court’s decision, but the apex court upheld the acquittal order.

The US government has asked the Pakistan government to ensure that those involved in murdering Pearl should be punished.

Voicing outrage over the acquittal of Sheikh and his aides, the White House asked Pakistan to expeditiously review its legal options, including allowing the US to prosecute them to secure justice for Pearl’s family.

The pressure mounted on Pakistan as the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi to demand justice for Pearl.

Last week, Blinken spoke with Pearl's family and assured them that the US government remains committed to pursuing justice and accountability for those involved in his kidnapping and murder in Pakistan.

Pearl was doing research on religious extremism in Karachi when he was abducted in January 2002. A graphic video showing his decapitation was delivered to the US consulate a month later. Subsequently, Sheikh was arrested in 2002 and sentenced to death by a trial court for his alleged involvement in the murder.

Pearl's murder took place three years after Sheikh, along with Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar and Mushtaq Ahmed Zargar, was released by India in 1999 and given safe passage to Afghanistan in exchange for the nearly 150 passengers of hijacked Indian Airlines Flight 814.

He was serving a prison term in India for kidnappings of Western tourists in the country.

Pakistan's former president Pervez Musharraf in his book, 'In the Line of Fire', wrote that Sheikh was originally recruited by British intelligence agency MI6 while studying at the London School of Economics.

Musharraf said Sheikh was sent to the Balkans by MI6 to engage in operations. 'At some point, he probably became a rogue or double agent,' he wrote. PTI MZ SCY AKJ SCY