Karachi, February 7: Pakistani authorities have issued a notification to shift British-born al-Qaeda terrorist Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, the main accused in the sensational kidnapping and murder of US journalist Daniel Pearl in 2002, from jail to a newly-built facility within the boundaries of the Central Prison in Karachi.
The notification on Saturday came days after a three-member bench of the Supreme Court headed by Justice Umar Ata Bandial ordered to shift 46-year-old Sheikh from the death row cell to a rest house run by the government.
All suspects “are to be shifted to the newly constricted Rooms for meeting of spouses with Prisoners situated outside of main prison and within boundary of Central Prison Karachi, the Express Tribune newspaper reported, citing the notification issued by the Sindh Home Department on February 6.
However, “NO internet, telephone and for that matter any device/ means of communicating with outside world is to be provided,” the notification read.
It allowed only suspects’ families access to them from 8am to 5pm everyday but restricted them from bringing anything from outside of the prison, the paper said.
To maintain maximum security, however, a list of family members is to be provided by the counsel of detainees to the advocate general Sindh, secretary home or IG prison, Sindh and only the ones mentioned in the list will be allowed access to the detainees during permitted hours.
The families of the suspects will also be offered space in Qasr-e-Naz a federal government owned building in the city along with transport to and from the place of detention, the notification said.
The apex court had rejected the government’s appeal to suspend the Sindh High Court’s verdict on the acquittal of the accused and asked it to file an appeal against the high court’s decision.
Pearl, the 38-year-old South Asia bureau chief for The Wall Street Journal, was abducted and beheaded while he was in Pakistan investigating a story in 2002 on the links between the country’s powerful spy agency ISI and al-Qaeda.
In April 2020, a two-judge Sindh High Court bench commuted the death sentence of Sheikh to seven years imprisonment. The court also acquitted his three aides who were serving life terms in the case — almost two decades after they were found guilty and jailed.
The Sindh government and the family of Pearl filed petitions in the apex court, challenging the high court verdict.
Last month, the Supreme Court dismissed their appeals against the acquittal of Sheikh and ordered his release, a judgement denounced by the American journalist’s family as “a complete travesty of justice.”
The US government has asked Pakistan government to ensure that those involved in murdering Pearl should be punished.
The Sindh government filed a review petition in the apex court against the acquittal of Sheikh and his three accomplices.
Voicing outrage over the acquittal of Sheikh and his aides, the White House asked Pakistan to expeditiously review its legal options, including allowing the US to prosecute them to secure justice for Pearl’s family.
Amid mounting pressure from the US and the UN, a spokesman of the Attorney General of Pakistan (AGP) said that the federal government will file an appropriate application before the apex court to be allowed to join as a party in the proceedings and further seek review and recall of the court’s January 28 judgement.
The apex court on February 1 rejected the government’s request to suspend the order to release Sheikh and his three aides – Fahad Naseem, Sheikh Adil and Salman Saqib – in the case but extended their interim detention order by one day to hear the government’s position on the case.
On Tuesday, the court ordered immediate removal of Sheikh from the death row cell.
The Pakistan government is scrambling to keep Sheikh in custody after the top court had ordered to release him if he was not wanted in any other case.
The pressure mounted on Pakistan as the US Secretary of State Blinken called Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi to demand justice for Pearl.
Pearl’s murder took place three years after Sheikh, along with Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar and Mushtaq Ahmed Zargar, was released by India in 1999 and given safe passage to Afghanistan in exchange for the nearly 150 passengers of hijacked Indian Airlines Flight 814.
He was serving a prison term in India for kidnappings of Western tourists in the country. (PTI)