Sheikh, accused of kidnapping and killing American journalist Daniel Pearl in
Karachi in 2002, and who was sentenced to death by a Hyderabad Sindh special
court, has been acquitted of the charge of murder by the Sindh High Court after
18 years. No evidence was found against him. He has been given seven years’
imprisonment for aiding and abetting Pearl’s kidnapping. He has already served
his required prison sentence and will hence be released very soon.
– British-born Islamic militant Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh is surrounded by armed
police as he arrives at a court in Karachi, Pakistan March 29, 2002. (AP
Photo/Zia Mazhar, file)
that a pathologically violent man is, once again, free to carry on his jihad
against imagined enemies. When Omar got the death sentence for helping al
Qaeda’s Khalid Sheikh Muhammad behead Pearl, he criticised the judgment as
“given under pressure from the Americans”. Public reaction was mixed, and Omar
continued his defiance, threatening “those who want to kill me” with death, and
calling his trial “a struggle between Islam and kufr”.
Why has the
High Court let him off? Commentators point to some “flaws”. A Lashkar-e-Jhangvi
terrorist came up with additional confessional evidence during the trial, which
was not taken cognisance of. Neither the discovery of the beheaded corpse of
Pearl, nor its DNA test result, was allowed to feature in the trial. These were
points of law that the appellate court was to adjudicate on.
was shifted to the Hyderabad jail from Karachi because the prosecution kept
receiving threatening messages from the terrorists supporting Omar. The
attorney general of Sindh stated that he would like the state to appeal for the
death sentence of the other three also, as “he feared for his life” because of
registered on February 4, 2002, proceeded under international limelight and
concluded on July 15, 2002. General Pervez Musharraf wanted to see the accused
hanged and said so in a public statement. The American government wanted Omar
on other counts of terrorism, but deferred to Pakistan’s desire to try him for
the crime he had committed on Pakistani soil.
He was no
ordinary criminal. Before this, Omar had been released from an Indian jail
after the hijack of an Indian airliner in 1999. He had been tried in India for
kidnapping foreigners in New Delhi, about which he had even left behind a
graphic diary. He had also been trying to get Maulana Masood Azhar, a
fellow-member of his jihadi organisation, Harkat-ul-Ansar, released from an
Azhar, went on to become the leader of Jaish-e-Muhammad. After 9/11, Jaish was
banned by Pakistan, and Azhar was interned. Reports appeared in Pakistan at the
time about Omar looking after Jaish and its affiliates, and even editing their
extremist publications. Later, Jaish was found linked to Lashkar-e-Jhangvi,
whose members finally came forward to own the murder of Pearl.
Omar’s trial had to be held in Pakistan was his putative connection with the
country’s intelligence agencies. His extradition to the US could have resulted
in him “spilling the beans” about the complicity of some members of these
agencies in the realm of international terrorism — there has been a persistent
charge, first aired by the CNN, that Omar sent funds to Muhammad Atta, the
suicide bomber who attacked the World Trade Center in September 2001.
always feared that Omar won’t be hanged. In his Hyderabad cell, he was allowed
“facilities” that are possible only with the connivance of deep state elements.
He reportedly started threatening General Musharraf over the phone: “I am after
you, get ready to die.” Subsequent investigations revealed the threatening
phone call was made by someone from the Hyderabad Central Jail. Being a
suspect, Omar was placed under observation before it transpired that he was
indeed the one who had threatened Musharraf. Significantly, by all accounts,
the deep state, too, had tried unsuccessfully to kill him — he narrowly escaped
Omar was a
violent youth who grew up in the United Kingdom and imbibed an extremist
worldview. From his school days in Lahore, he was known as an unusually violent
personality. His pathological proclivities, soon mixed with ideology, produced
a man who now threatens the world, again, with terrorism.
Headline: That Omar Sheikh is let off by Pakistan court should worry the world
Source: The Indian Express