The Supreme Court of Pakistan on Tuesday acquitted Shahrukh Jatoi and his three accomplices in the murder of Shahzeb Khan, with the convicts’ lawyer asserting that they had already been pardoned by the family of the victim.
The ruling was announced by a three-judge bench led by Justice Ijazul Ahsan and comprising Justices Munib Akhtar and Sayyed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi. During proceedings, the convicts’ lawyer, Latif Khosa, argued that they had been formally pardoned by the victim’s family and there was no longer any need to keep them imprisoned. Referring to a ruling of the Sindh High Court, he had added that his clients had no intent to spread terror and could not be punished on the basis of terrorism charges.
Subsequently, the court acquitted all four people and allowed them to go free.
Shahzeb, 20, was shot dead on Dec. 24, 2012 while returning to his home in Karachi with his sister. Reportedly, he was killed after getting into a fight with one of Jatoi’s servants, who had verbally threatened and harassed the sister. Taking suo moto notice of the incident, which provoked widespread outrage, then-chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry directed police to take action, with the accused’s accomplices finally being arrested on Jan. 7, 2013. Jatoi had already fled to Dubai at the time, but was arrested upon his return to Pakistan.
The case was subsequently sent to an Anti-Terrorism Court, which sentenced Jatoi and his accomplice Siraj Ali Talpur to death in June 2013, while awarding life imprisonment to Siraj’s younger brother, Sajjad Ali Talpur, and domestic helper Ghulam Murtaza Lashari. That same year, Shahzeb’s parents issued a formal pardon for the convicts, which was approved by the Sindh High Court (SHC). In a statement, the parents had suggested they were acting under pressure, as they did not wish to spend their lives in “fear.” However, the death penalty was upheld because of the addition of terrorism charges to the case.
In 2017, the SHC set aside the death sentence of Jatoi and ordered retrial of the case. However, civil society representatives appealed the decision before the Supreme Court, which then cancelled the bails of the convicts and ordered them to be placed under arrest once more.