Friday December 01, 2023

UK QC offers free services to Omar Sheikh in Pearl murder case

April 09, 2020

LONDON: One of Britain’s youngest ever Pakistani Queen’s Counsel (QC) has offered his services free of charge to British born militant Ahmed Omar Sheikh and three others who have convicted of the allegedly murdering Daniel Pearl, the Wall Street journalist, in Karachi in 2002.

Ali Naseem Bajwa QC, who made history when he became one of the youngest ever QC in 2011, told this reporter in an interview that the handling of British Pakistani Omar Sheikh’s case and the treatment of three other men raises serious concerns. The other murder accused are Fahad Nasim Ahmed, Syed Salman Saqib and Sheikh Muhammad Adil.

Ali Bajwa QC has represented cricketer Salman Butt at Southwark Crown Court after he was charged with spot fixing in 2010. He appeared on BBC’s Newsnight in 2015 and for the first time he explained that some speeches of the MQM leader Altaf Hussain fell in the category of terrorism hate speech. Ali Bajwa has represented clients in some of the biggest murder and terrorism cases in the UK.

Ali Bajwa told The News and Geo: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere, and due process is simply not being observed in this case. As a British-Pakistani QC, I am willing to join the fight to restore the Sindh High Court’s decision. Therefore, I have offered my services, free of charge, to any of the four men who may wish to have my assistance in the legal battles that lie ahead.” He said that Pakistan justice system’s recent handling of the case of Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh showcases it at its very best and worst.

The lawyer said: “Putting aside that it took 18 years to bring about its resolution, the decision of the Sindh High Court on 2 April 2020 was a model of legal independence and good sense. The court allowed Sheikh’s appeal, and that of his three co-accused, for the infamous 2002 murder of the US journalist Daniel Pearl on the grounds that there was insufficient evidence of his being a party to a murder, only a party to his kidnapping. “Sheikh’s death sentence was quashed and replaced by one of 7 years’ imprisonment for the kidnapping offence; a term that he had long-since served. His release was expected to follow very shortly. The Pakistan courts had shown that justice can indeed be blind. Regrettably the blindfold slipped within just 24 hours.”

Ali Bajwa QC said he had no doubt that the decision next of the provincial government to issue orders to keep Shaikh and his co-accused in custody for at least 90 days on the grounds of ‘public safety’ was taken under pressure from external agencies.

He explained: “That basis for their continued imprisonment is entirely fallacious unless one presumes that the four men are guilty of murder, which in law they no longer are. Of course, the state can and will appeal the Sindh High Court’s judgment to the Supreme Court. Inevitably, that process will be significantly delayed. Inevitably, Sheikh and the other three men will be in custody for all of that time.”

The QC said that the handling of this case and the treatment of these four men raise serious concerns. He said that he would be willing to offer his services within Pakistan and at any international legal forum to get the justice done. He added: “This case is about much more than the fate of the four men. It confirms that there are significant systematic failures in Pakistan’s legal process, which must be challenged by international lawyers and human rights groups.”

Sheikh, son of a Pakistani wholesale clothes merchant from East London, studied at a government school and went on to study at the London School of Economics (LSE). He left university and went on to join militant groups and called a curtain on his life full of prospects in London.