Pak SC allows authorities to shift al-Qaeda terrorist Omar Sheikh from Karachi to Lahore jail

Sajjad Hussain
·2-min read

Islamabad, Mar 25 (PTI) Pakistan's Supreme Court on Thursday allowed authorities to shift British-born al-Qaeda terrorist Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, the main accused in the sensational kidnapping and murder of US journalist Daniel Pearl in 2002, to a high security jail in Lahore.

Hearing a plea filed by the federal and Sindh governments, a three-member apex court bench headed by Justice Umar Ata Bandial directed the Punjab government to implement court orders about moving 46-year-old Sheikh from Karachi to Lahore's Kot Lakhpat Jail.

However, the three other accused - Fahad Naseem, Sheikh Adil and Salman Saqib - in the Pearl murder case would remain in Karachi jail.

Pakistani authorities on Monday shifted Sheikh from Karachi to Lahore due to 'security concerns'.

The court adjourned the case for two weeks and directed the Punjab chief secretary to appear before it at the next hearing to show compliance about shifting of Sheikh. Sheikh and his three accomplices have been behind bars since 2002 when they were convicted of the kidnapping and murder of 38-year-old Pearl, the South Asia bureau chief for the Wall Street Journal, who was abducted and beheaded while he was in Pakistan investigating a story on the links between the country's powerful spy agency ISI and al-Qaeda.

In April 2020, a two-judge Sindh High Court bench commuted the death sentence of Sheikh to seven years imprisonment. The court also acquitted his three aides who were serving life terms in the case -- almost two decades after they were found guilty and jailed.

However, they were not released and kept in custody as the Sindh province and the federal governments filed another petition in the apex court to keep them behind bars.

In January, the Supreme Court dismissed their appeals against the acquittal of Sheikh and ordered his release, a judgement denounced by the American journalist's family as 'a complete travesty of justice.' The US government has asked 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.

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. PTI SH ZH ZH