MUZAFFARABAD: A sitting member of the Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) cabinet was arrested by police on Wednesday moments after the Shariat Appellate bench of the AJK High Court slapped him with rigorous life imprisonment and Rs1 million fine in a nearly two decades old murder case.
Minister for Higher Education Malik Zaffar Iqbal, who had returned from LA-8, Kotli-I on PTI ticket, was nominated in this case in an application lodged with Kotli police station on Sept 29, 2003by Rashid Hussain Shah for the murder of his brother Amir Asif Shah.
According to APP, Dawn and other media sources, the complainant had alleged that a group of around 16 lethal weapon-wielding people, including Mr Iqbal, had attacked his shop in Riyan Gala village in the wake of a brief altercation with Mansha Malik a few days ago.
According to him, Mr Iqbal, who was wielding a Kalashnikov, had fired a shot at the complainant’s brother Amir Asif Shah which hit him in his forehead and subsequently killed him.
The FIR was initially registered under sections 324,147, 148, 149, 337-A1 of Azad Penal Code (APC) but section 302 of APC and section 13/20/65 of Arms Act were added to it after the victim died of his wounds in the hospital the same evening and the accused persons failed to provide licence of recovered weapons.
The trial of the case was conducted by the district criminal court Kotli, comprising the sessions judge and districtQazi. At the conclusion of the trial, the sessions judge had acquitted the accused persons from all the charges by extending benefit of doubt, but the district Qazi convicted Mr Iqbal under section 302(B) of the APC and awarded him death sentence asTazir,coupled with five-year imprisonment under the Arms Act.
The Qazi also awarded five-year imprisonment to another accused Imran under the Arms Act but concurred with the acquittal order of the rest of accused persons vide the impugned judgement delivered on May 19, 2008.
After hearing the counsel for the parties, going through their written arguments and record of the case as well as statements of the eyewitnesses in Kotli circuit, the Shariat Appellate bench, comprising Justice Mohammad Ejaz Khan and Justice Chaudhry Khalid Rasheed, had reserved the judgement early last month.
It was announced on Wednesday at the principal seat in a packed courtroom, where minister for local government Khawaja Farooq Ahmed, parliamentary secretary Asim Sharif Lone and a large number of PTI supporters were also present.
The bench held that the prosecution had proved the guilt of Mr Iqbal without any considerable or substantial shadow of doubt and set aside the impugned judgement to his extent recorded by the sessions judge and converted the capital punishment handed down by the district Qazi into 14 years rigorous imprisonment.
Separately, Mr Iqbal was also sentenced to three-year simple imprisonment under the Arms Act.
The bench declared that the convict would pay Rs1 million as compensation to the legal heirs of the deceased, and in default of payment the amount would be recovered from him under the Land Revenue Act.
While acquitting Mr Imran of charges by giving him the benefit of doubt, the bench sustained the impugned verdict to the extent of the remaining accused persons.
Soon after the announcement of the verdict, police shifted Mr Iqbal to the nearby civil secretariat police station from where he would be handed over to Kotli police to be lodged in judicial lockup.
However, his lawyers said they would challenge the decision in the Supreme Court.