Due to the increasing pressure laid on by the United States and the U.N, the government of Pakistan stated that it will be officially joining the Sindh administration-initiated review proceedings against the judgment of acquittal given by the Supreme Court in the brutal murder case of the U.S-based journalist, Mr. Daniel Pearl.
The 38-year-old man was the bureau chief for the Wall Street Journal’s South Asian branch and he was kidnapped and beheaded while in the process of investigation of a story in 2002 in Pakistan.
The story had shown links between ISI, Pakistan’s powerful secret agency, and the terrorist organisation, al-Qaeda.
On January 28, 2021, the SC had ordered the acquittal of the British-origin, al-Qaeda-linked terrorist, Mr. Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, and three of his aides, Mr. Fahad Naseem, Mr. Sheikh Adil, and Mr. Salman Saqib after promptly dismissing any appeals against their judgment from the Sindh High Court.
The SC’s judgment was castigated by Mr. Pearl’s family to be “a complete travesty of justice.”
On January 29th, the government of Sindh had filed a petition for review in the top court against Mr. Sheikh and his accomplices’ acquittals.
An announcement was given by the Pakistan Attorney General’s spokesperson on the 30th of January on how the federal government was preparing to file a suitable application in front of the SC to join the proceedings and to seek review/recall of the judgment given on the 28th.
The application will be filed by the government for a larger bench to be constituted in order to hear the petitions for review. The government will also cooperate with the Sindh government to continue to seek all legal action possible against this heinous crime’s perpetrators, added the spokesperson.
This announcement was made after Mr. Antony Blinken, the U.S. Secretary of State had a conversation on the phone with Mr. Shah Mahmood Qureshi, the Foreign Minister of Pakistan.
They had discussed accountability in terms of the terrorists responsible for Mr. Pearl’s brutal murder. Mr. Blinken had also professed “deep concern” with regards to the SC’s judgment.
The Pakistan Foreign Office made a statement that Mr. Qureshi had “underscored that it was important and in the mutual interest that justice is served through legal means.”
As per some media reports, a review petition on the judgment will be heard by the SC on the 1st of February despite there being no official announcement on the same.
On 29th, Mr. Stephane Dujarric from the U.N. spoke for Mr. Antonio Guterres, the U.N’s Secretary-General, stating that there was some concern to be expressed upon the acquittal of Mr. Pearl’s murderers and that it was important for accountability to be emphasised for the committal of such crimes.
The U.S. mounted pressure on Pakistan as well and demanded justice on behalf of Mr. Pearl. In January, the United State had said it was ready to bring Mr. Sheikh into its custody to ensure that he doesn’t evade justice.
“The release of those involved would be an affront to Daniel Pearl’s family, to other terrorism victims around the world, and to the cause of justice,” the U.S. Acting Attorney General, Mr. Wilkinson stated.
Mr. Brad Sherman, a U.S. congressman tweeted that, “The killers of Daniel Pearl go free. And Dr. Afridi, who helped the U.S. get Osama Bin Laden, rots in jail.”
“We are deeply disappointed that Pakistan’s Supreme Court has acquitted and ordered the release of Ahmad Saeed Omar Sheikh, despite overwhelming evidence of Sheikh’s involvement in the kidnapping of Daniel Pearl, which led directly to his murder,” was another statement made by Mr. Steven Butler, Committee to Protect Journalist’s Asia program coordinator.
In the month of April 2020, a bench of two judges of the High Court of Sindh had commuted the 46-year-old Sheikh’s death sentence to imprisonment for 7 years.
Three of his aides were also acquitted by the case despite serving life sentences in this case.
The government of Sindh and Mr. Pearl’s family had filed petitions in the top court after challenging the verdict of the High Court.
And the Maintenance of Public Order (MPO) Ordinance of 1960 was invoked by the Sindh government to continue the detention of the four accused men.
This was challenged in the Sindh High Court on the 24th of December on a direction to security agencies to release Sheikh and his men from “any sort of detention” and to declare all the Sindh government’s notifications on their detention to be “null and void.”
The U.S. government’s immediate response to this was elicited on the 25th of December and they expressed “deep concerns” over the High Court’s order.
The State Department of the U.S also stated it will monitor any further developments on the case and shall continue their support of the victim’s family “through this extremely difficult process,” all while honoring the “courageous journalist’s” legacy.
A handwritten letter from Mr. Sheikh was submitted to the High Court in the year 2019 in the admission of his limited involvement in killing Mr. Pearl. The letter was presented to the SC two weeks after and his lawyer had confirmed it on the 27th of January 2021.
He hadn’t explained his role though and stated it to be “just minor.”