Jokhio murder does not qualify to be termed terrorism, rules ATC

May 24, 2022

An anti-terrorism court ruled on Monday that the murder of Nazim Jokhio does not qualify to be defined as terrorism, as it returned the final charge sheet to the investigating officer to submit it...

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An anti-terrorism court (ATC) ruled on Monday that the murder of Nazim Jokhio does not qualify to be defined as terrorism, as it returned the final charge sheet to the investigating officer to submit it to a regular court to conduct the trial of the high-profile case.

Following the ruling, influential lawmakers belonging to the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) would now be able to benefit from the out-of-court settlement they have already reached with Jokhio’s family, which has pardoned the accused.

The February 8 order of a judicial magistrate to add the relevant sections of the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) to the murder FIR and refer the case to an ATC for the trial had ruled out the chance of the accused securing acquittal after reconciliation with the complainant, because the offences in the ATA are non-compoundable.

Nazim Jokhio, a journalist, was found dead last year in November at a farmhouse belonging to PPP MPA Jam Awais. Afzal Jokhio, the victim’s brother, had named Awais and his brother MNA Jam Abdul Karim, as well as their guards, in the FIR for allegedly torturing the journalist to death. Jokhio was murdered for stopping the lawmakers’ foreign guests from hunting the endangered houbara bustard.

The ATC-XV judge announced the reserved verdict after hearing arguments from the defence and the prosecution. The judge said the dispute between the parties transpired to be in furtherance of personal enmity and private vendetta, and there was no design or purpose for the commission of the offences as defined under clauses (b) or (c) of sub-section (1) of Section 6 of the ATA 1997.

The judge said that it was well settled that the order passed by the magistrate for returning the case to the IO to be presented before the administrative judge of the ATCs has no binding effect on this court, which is at liberty to decide the question of taking cognisance or otherwise without the influence of the order in question.

“The alleged incident took place in furtherance of private dispute and vendetta, without any design or purpose for spreading terrorism, hence does not fall within the definition of terrorism and ambit of the ATC for trial,” reads the verdict that is 11 pages long. Therefore, the charge sheet, along with the R&P, is ordered to be returned to the IO with the direction to submit the same before the ordinary magisterial court having the jurisdiction.”

The state prosecutor, Tahira Akhtar Depar, argued that the IO was left with no other option but to submit the charge sheet before the ATC after the Malir judicial magistrate passed its verdict on February 8, ordering the transfer of the case to the ATC despite there being “no element of terrorism in it”. The incumbent court was not bound by the magistrate’s order to conduct the trial in the case, she added.

The lawyers who appeared on behalf of Afzal Jokhio, the complainant of the case, Shireen Jokhio, the widow of the victim, and the accused, including Awais, as well as the IO, Sirajuddin Lashari, supported the arguments advanced by the prosecutor. On the other hand, Advocate Mazhar Junejo and Advocate Asghar Narejo, who claimed to be representing the widow of the deceased, contended that the incident fell within the ambit of terrorism because it was not only brutal, grave and horrifying but also took place at a public place and caused outrage on social media.

Lashari, after wrapping up the investigation, had submitted the challan before the Malir judicial magistrate-II, who had returned it to the IO to file it before the administrative judge of the ATCs. The judge had transferred the challan to the ATC on May 13 to decide its fate in accordance with the law.

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