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April 5, 2020

Curious case

Editorial

 
April 5, 2020

Ahmed Omar Sheikh was suspected of connections with international terrorist organizations even before he was found to be one of the masterminds behind the kidnapping and then brutal murder of American journalist Daniel Pearl in 2002. Sheikh’s case has been lingering on for over 18 years, and now much to the chagrin of not only the government of Pakistan but also of international human rights and media organizations, the Sindh High Court (SHC) has given the verdict that he be released. The Sindh authorities have done the right thing by arresting him again for three months under the Maintenance of Public Order Ordinance. British-born Sheikh was to be released along with another three accused in the murder case that drew international attention. The court had acquitted three of them but sentenced Omar Sheikh to seven years for the kidnapping-murder of the Wall Street Journal reporter, a term that he has already served.

The SHC’s verdict has once again brought the fact to the fore that investigation and prosecution are weak areas in the police forces in Pakistan. Omar Sheikh’s past was nothing secret even before his involvement in the Daniel Pearl murder case. The police and the prosecution team could have used the evidence from his early days of suspect activities right up to the murder of Pearl. It is not clear how much of the evidence from the British authorities was collected and produced before the court. Now his release is sure to raise some serious concerns in the international community about Pakistan.

We are already under the sword of the Financial Action Task Force that wants us to not only arrest but also prosecute and sentence all those involved in terrorist activities and terror financing. Ahmed Omar Sheikh’s possible release may once again put us in a tricky situation and expose us to danger. There is a need to appeal against the release of Omar Sheikh in the higher courts which can then consider a broader picture of this issue that should not be confined to the Daniel Pearl murder case alone. Sheikh’s entire life trajectory needs to be taken into account. His release at the moment will seriously jeopardize the prospects of Pakistan getting out of the FATF grey list, and worse still may also push us to an intensely undesirable Black List.