Going with the dubious record set by Islamabad, it shouldn’t be surprising if Pearl’s killer is released in the near future
The death sentence for British-born Al-Qaeda terrorist Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, who was convicted in the kidnapping and killing of US journalist Daniel Pearl in Karachi, is another proof of Pakistan’s comfortable relations with the jihadist ecosystem. The acquittal by the Sindh high court raises serious questions about the credibility and independence of the justice system and also reveals dangerous game plans from military establishments that have the grip like representatives of all the main organs of the country. Islamabad continues to play a dangerous game with terrorism with the mistaken belief that this is the way to achieve its strategic objectives in South Asia. Pearl, head of the South Asian bureau for The Wall Street Journal, was investigating the activities of militant groups in Karachi and their relations with al-Qaeda after the 9/11 attacks when he was kidnapped in January 2002. He was beheaded a few weeks later. The killing sent shockwaves throughout the world. This reveals the roots that have attacked al-Qaeda within Pakistani jihadist groups and ISI involvement. When the United States began to urge Pakistan to arrest the perpetrators, Omar Sheikh ‘surrendered’ before Ijaz Shah, the former Chief of Punjab Intelligence who is now the country’s Interior Minister. Once again, after US pressure, Pakistan has now recaptured Sheikh and announced that it will challenge his release. However, this is only to deceive the international community and to avoid the heaviest punishment of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the supervisor of money laundering and financing of global terrorism that has put Pakistan on the ‘gray list’.
Both Sheikh and Masood Azhar were arrested and jailed in India before being handed over to the Taliban in Kandahar in return for IC 814 hostages in a 1999 piracy case. Earlier in 1994, Sheikh abducted four foreign tourists in Delhi to free 10 Kashmiri terrorists in return. The tourist grounds are hidden by the police and the prisoners are released unharmed. Sheikh was arrested along with three other people and jailed. The release of such a feared terrorist for weak technical reasons shows the shameful nature of Pakistan’s criminal justice system. Following the dubious record set by Islamabad, it should not be surprising if Sheikh and his followers are released in the near future, as happened with others before them. In 2015, Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, who oversaw the Mumbai attacks on 26/11, was released from custody and remains free to this day. And, last month, Pakistan’s Minister of Economic Affairs Hammad Azhar revealed that the head of Jaish-e-Mohammed Masood Azhar had “disappeared” with his family. This country is truly open to become the center of global terrorism.
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