Days after the government re-arrested Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh after his acquittal by the Sindh High Court (SHC) in the murder case of American journalist Daniel Pearl, Britain’s Queen’s Counsel Ali Naseem Bajwa on Thursday offered his services to the militant free of charge.
Speaking to a local news outlet, Bajwa said that the way Sheikh’s case was handled and three other men, Fahad Nasim Ahmed, Syed Salman Saqib and Sheikh Muhammad Adil, treated, raises serious concerns about the justice system of the country, which appears to be at its very best and worst.
He said that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere, and due process had not been observed in this case. “As a British-Pakistani QC, I am willing to join the fight to restore the 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 added.
He also said that putting aside that it took 18 years to bring about its resolution, the SHC’s decision on April 2 was a model of legal independence and good sense. He added that the court allowed Sheikh’s appeal and that of his three co-accused on the grounds that there was insufficient evidence of his being a party to Pearl’s murder, only a party to his kidnapping.
“Sheikh’s death sentence was quashed and replaced by one of seven years’ imprisonment for the kidnapping offence; a term that he had long-since served. His release was expected to follow very shortly. The Pakistani courts had shown that justice can indeed be blind. Regrettably, the blindfold slipped within just 24 hours,” he said.
Bajwa said that he has no doubt that the provincial government’s decision to issue orders to keep Sheikh and his co-accused in custody for at least 90 days on the grounds of ‘public safety’ was taken under pressure from external agencies.
“That basis for their continued imprisonment is entirely fallacious unless one presumes that four men are guilty of murder, which in law they no longer are. Of course, the state can and will appeal the SHC’s judgement to the Supreme Court (SC). Inevitably, that process will be significantly delayed and the four men will be in custody for all of that time,” he added.
He further said that this case is about much more than the fate of four men as “it confirms that there are significant systematic failures in Pakistan’s legal process, which must be challenged by international lawyers and human rights groups”.