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March 13, 2015
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Saulat Mirza: the first target killer to face the gallows

National

March 13, 2015

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ISLAMABAD: Having dodged the gallows for almost 16 long years despite killing 58 Pakistanis, Saulat Mirza will be the first ever target killer belonging to a political party who will be sent to the gallows on March 19 for assassinating Malik Shahid Hamid, a former Managing Director of the KESC, his guard and driver, on July 5, 1997 in Karachi.
The killing was carried out on July 5, 1997 in the Defence Housing Authority area of the port city. Shahid Hamid’s widow, Mrs Shahnaz Shahid, was forced to flee Pakistan, because powerful members of the mafia, with strong political backing, had threatened to kill her for recognizing Saulat Ali Khan alias Saulat Mirza as the killer.
She had to be posted in the Pakistani High Commission in London because of the threats to her life. On the other hand, Saulat Mirza was arrested from the Karachi Airport in December 1998 while returning from Bangkok. Strangely enough, Mirza became a household name as a notorious target for conducting 40-plus assassinations following his release on parole in 2004. He was finally re-arrested by late SP Chaudhry Aslam and sentenced to death by an anti-terrorism court in Karachi (led by Judge Javed Alam) on May 24, 1999 for the murder of Malik Shahid Hamid, his driver, Arshad Barohi and guard, Khan Akbar.
The Sindh High Court and the Supreme Court subsequently dismissed Mirza’s appeals against death penalty on January 21, 2000 and September 14, 2001, respectively. The Supreme Court of Pakistan had also rejected his review appeal on March 9, 2004. The next step was the rejection of his mercy appeal by the President of Pakistan after which he was set to be executed. However, Mirza was lucky enough to keep dodging the gallows for 11 more years, thanks to the efforts of his powerful sympathisers in the ruling circles who tried hard to get him off the hook by threatening the widow of Shahid Hamid to grant mercy to him under Qisas. In the meantime, Mirza continued to mastermind and order more

killings from his Karachi prison cell, including several policemen and jail officials, thus literally making him the prison king. Following the murder of a senior jail official, Amanullah Niazi in 2006 [as he tried to check Mirza’s activities], the notorious assassin used to rule the roost. Before Niazi’s murder, Saulat Mirza had his own UPS, a DVD player, and MP3 player in his jail cell. But he was consequently moved to the Mach jail in Balochistan, in April 2014, in a bid to stop his activities and cripple his network.
The 2008 moratorium imposed by the PPP government on death penalty enabled him and many other killers to spend five more years with a peaceful mind, without the fear of being sent to the gallows. However, all this changed after the December 16, 2014 Peshawar school massacre and the federal government’s subsequent decision to lift the moratorium on death penalty. As the government decided to execute the high profile terrorists already handed down death sentences, Saulat Mirza was an obvious choice, being the only target killer from Karachi whose conviction on murder charge in fact got finality. As his death warrants were issued and Mirza was set to be hanged on January 7, 2015, the federal government halted his execution [till further orders] at the eleventh hour under mounting pressure from the MQM despite the fact that his mercy petition had already been rejected by President Mamnoon Hussain on January 1, 2015. But two months later, an anti terrorism court in Karachi issued a death warrant for Mirza, who will be hanged on March 19, 2015.
It may be recalled that following the arrest of Saulat Mirza from the Karachi Airport in December 1998, the BBC had quoted the then DIG Karachi as saying that the man is a prize catch who had admitted in his confessional video statement which is still available on www.dailymotion.com/video/xwopx3_saulat-mirza-of-mqm-1_news killing dozens of people, including Major Shahnawaz Toor, the in charge of the Pakistan chapter of the United States Drug Enforcement Agency in 1995. Saulat Mirza told journalists [when he was produced by the police at a press conference in Karachi on December 11, 1998] that hitting out at the foreigners in Karachi was a well thought out policy. He said that he had returned from Thailand to Pakistan to carry out a few more killings. On the killing of Shahid Hamid, he said that the deceased had served in the IMF and was arranging loans for Pakistan because of which he was eliminated.
It may be recalled that private secretary of one of the senior MQM leaders Nadeem Nusrat, Asad, Athar and Rashid, were also nominated in the murder case of Shahid Hamid on the basis of Saulat Mirza’s confessional statement. But the MQM leadership had refuted any role in the murder.
Saulat Mirza said there were 80 to 100 wanted target killers who are in South Africa. He further said that several other boys went to India to get training in terrorist activities. Saulat said he had returned to Karachi in March 1998 [almost eight months after Shahid Hamid’s murder] and immediately went into hiding. On October 30, 1998, he went to Bangkok where he was given the task of killing Hussain Haqqani, Ejaz Shafi and Haleem Siddiqui. As he was coming out of the Karachi Airport upon his return from Bangkok in December 1998, he was nabbed by the security agencies at the taxi stand. He admitted having committed heinous crimes, which are not pardonable.

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