LAHORE: A number of important decisions were taken as the Supreme Court of Pakistan resumed hearing the Zainab rape and murder suo motu case at its Lahore Registry.
Zainab was kidnapped on January 4 in Kasur and found five days later from a garbage pile. The post-mortem revealed Zainab had been raped and murdered. Later, the authorities succeeded in nabbing the suspect, Imran, said to be a serial killer involved in several similar cases in Kasur.
New JIT to probe anchorperson’s allegations
A three-member bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Saqib Nisar began the proceedings by taking up an anchorperson’s allegations, refuted by the government, that the suspect Imran has several bank accounts and is part of an international ring involving government officials.
As the hearing went under way, the video of the anchorperson’s Thursday’s media talk outside the Supreme Court in Islamabad was played.
“You said there is evidence of 37 accounts, please present it,” the chief justice asked the anchorperson.
“There’s a coverup,” claimed the anchorperson, and asked the court to inquire from the police where the victim was kept before being killed.
Failing to present a satisfying reply and instead questioning the chief justice’s own practices, the anchorperson was admonished for levelling baseless allegations.
“Your statements are based on hearsay,” the chief justice remarked, adding that he saw the anchorperson’s show at midnight and called him next morning. “What you said [in your show], you have failed to prove [in court],” the chief justice observed.
“The accounts you mentioned don’t exist. Give evidence and I’ll present you a certificate of honesty,” the chief justice remarked.
When the anchorperson said he will ask to leave the court if it continues doubting his claims, the chief justice retorted that he would not be allowed to go anywhere and be placed on the Exit Control List.
The court then ordered the formation of a new joint investigation team (JIT), headed by Federal Investigation Agency Director General Bashir Memon, to investigate the anchorperson’s claims. Two other members of this JIT would be nominated by the court later.
The court had also summoned today the heads of several news organisations as well as senior journalists to assist the court with regards to the anchorperson’s claims and the way forward.
Zainab’s father barred from media talks
Addressing victim Zainab’s father, Amin Ansari, the court observed that he should cooperate with the police.
The court also barred him and his counsel from talking to the media.
At another point during the hearing, the chief justice expressed remorse and regret at the incident, saying that as a nation and institution, he is embarrassed.
The chief justice also asked Zainab’s father to inform his reader if he ever wants to get in touch.
During the hearing, Zainab’s father demanded legislation to allow the suspect’s public hanging after the chief justice said the law does not permit it.
Ansari said, “If the Parliament can make laws to allow a disqualified person to head a political party, why can’t it do this”.
No more judicial commissions: CJP
Moreover, during the hearing, the chief justice ordered the cessation of forming judicial commissions, observing that matters go into the backburner when such commissions are formed.
“No one will make a commission in the future as conducting an investigation is the right way to probe a case,” the chief justice observed.
The chief justice then barred the prime minister and chief ministers from forming judicial commissions and observed that no one should contact him in this regard anymore.
Adjourning the hearing, the chief justice directed the authorities to submit the charge-sheet against the accused in two weeks and provide security to the victim’s family.
The chief justice remarked that he will not spare the relevant officials if the suspect is not brought to book.
Moreover, Punjab Prosecutor General Ehtesham Qadir was tasked to personally monitor the case’s progress and submission of charge-sheet.
‘Anchorperson says it is a developing story’
Talking to the media outside the court, senior journalist Hamid Mir said they have asked the court to allow the anchorperson, who is sticking to his claim and asking for more time, to present evidence or apologise by the day’s end.
Mir prayed that the anchorperson is able to present evidence to back his claims.
The anchorperson informed the court that it is a developing story, Mir informed further.
Punjab Chief Secretary Zahid Saeed, Punjab Advocate General Shakeelur Rehman, Attorney General Ashtar Ausaf Ali and the police team investigating the rape-murder incident were also present in court today.
The bench includes Justices Ijazul Ahsan and Manzoor Malik.
The anchorperson had stated in his show on a private news channel Wednesday night that the suspect Imran was part of an international group and had the backing of ‘powerful’ government officials.
He had also claimed that the suspect owned at least 37 bank accounts, including some outside the country.
Following his revelations, the Supreme Court bench hearing the Zainab suo motu case had summoned the anchorperson in court.
Appearing in the apex court in Islamabad on Thursday, the anchorperson submitted details of the accounts as well as names of the two government officials, including a federal minister, involved in the ring.
During the hearing, the chief justice had remarked that there would be severe consequences if the accusations are proved false.
Following the startling allegations, the Punjab government included members of the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) in the joint investigation team (JIT) probing the case to investigate the anchorperson’s claims.
The anchorperson, however, failed to appear before the JIT on Friday and Saturday, but kept repeating his claims on various news channels.
State Bank rejects claims
The SBP rejected the anchorperson’s claims on Friday stating that the suspect had no commercial bank accounts in the country.
Announcing the findings of the central bank during a news conference on Friday, Punjab government spokesman Malik Muhammad Ahmed Khan said allegations regarding the primary accused by a television anchor were “fake and fabricated” and were issued without any consideration of the consequences.