Wednesday April 24, 2024

Murder plot allegations: Sheikh Rashid's post-arrest bail plea rejected

Prosecution had opposed Rashid's bail plea fearing AML chief may run away

By Arfa Feroz Zake
February 07, 2023
Police officials escort former interior minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed (centre) to present him before a court in Islamabad on February 2, 2023. — AFP/File
Police officials escort former interior minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed (centre) to present him before a court in Islamabad on February 2, 2023. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: A local court on Tuesday turned down the post-arrest bail plea of Awami Muslim League (AML) chief Sheikh Rashid Ahmed — a close aide of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PIT) Chairman Imran Khan — in the case of murder plot allegations against former president Asif Ali Zardari. 

Judicial Magistrate Umar Shabbir had reserved the verdict after hearing arguments of the prosecution and Rashid's lawyers, earlier in the day. 

The former minister is facing multiple cases of levelling allegations against Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari for plotting to assassinate Khan, threatening police personnel, and passing "offensive" and "filthy" comments against Foreign Minister Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari.

He is currently in Adiala Jail on a 14-day judicial remand granted by the trial court in the murder plot allegations case.

However, the court in its verdict allowed the AML chief to sign his nomination papers for the NA-60 and NA-62 by-polls.

Today's hearing

Judicial Magistrate Umar Shabbir was presiding over the hearing of Rashid's bail plea, while lawyer Sardar Abdur Razzaq and Intezar Panjhota were representing the former minister.

At the outset of the hearing, the investigation officer (IO) presented the records before the court.

The judge asked Rashid’s lawyer whether their stance was that their client was not part of the conspiracy claimed to kill Imran Khan.

Sardar Abdul Razzik, Rashid’s counsel, told the court that his client had referred to PTI chief Imran Khan’s statement and was not part of the conspiracy.

The lawyer also contended that the first information report (FIR) was registered two days before Rashid gave the statement.

“Even if a murder is committed right in front of the police, the case is not registered this quickly,” argued the lawyer. 

“The police should have investigated Asif Ali Zardari but the opposite happened,” said the lawyer. He added that the PTI chief’s statement was based on facts.

“There is a conspiracy to kill Imran Khan for which a case is not being registered. However, a case has been registered for the defamation of Asif Zardari,” the lawyer added.

The counsel also contended that a notice was issued against his client on January 31, but it was never sent to him, however, television channels aired the news about it. He added when the high court suspended the notice, a case was registered against Rashid the next day. 

Razzik also told the court that the case was not registered on the complaint of a state officer but on a private complainant’s request.

“A common citizen had made allegations against Sheikh Rashid who is a [Pakistan] Peoples Party worker,” said Razzik. He added that the case would have been different had PPP Co-chairperson Asif Zardari filed the complaint.

The counsel said that Zardari could have sent a defamation notice to Imran Khan for making the allegations. He added that his client had only stated that whatever Imran Khan says is the truth and does not lie.

The lawyer also contended that during his client’s physical remand, the police were not able to find anything.

“Case against Sheikh Rashid was only registered to take political revenge,” Razzik told the court. He also claimed that during the search carried out by the police at his client’s home, they took away Rs700,000 cash and other valuable items.

The lawyer claimed that two bulletproof cars at his client’s home were also impounded.

“There is no need to investigate Sheikh Rashid and the bail plea should be approved. The high court had also stopped authorities from taking further action,” said Razik as he wrapped up his argument.

Prosecution opposes bail

Meanwhile, the prosecutor contended that Rashid was committing the same offences repeatedly of which he had been accused, during detention.

The lawyer contended that Rashid wanted a collision between PTI and PPP. He added that there was a chance of anarchy spreading in the country with Rashid’s statement.

The prosecution also told the court that the Islamabad High Court in its order had only stopped the summoning of Rashid. He added that the former interior minister’s attitude during detention was also unusual.

“Sheikh Rashid was arrested with a lot of difficulty, if he is granted bail then he will run away,” said the prosecutor as he opposed the bail plea.

After both sides completed the arguments, the court then reserved its verdict on the plea.