April 14, 2022
By Rehan Piracha
The National Commission for Human Rights will challenge the removal of names of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) legislators from the list of accused persons in the murder of citizen journalist Nazim Jokhio tortured to death in Karachi last year.
On April 13, a police investigator in the murder case excluded the names of Jam Awais Bijar, member of Sindh Assembly, and his elder brother Jam Abdul Karim Bijar, member of National Assembly, from the list of accused persons in a final charge sheet filed with the special public prosecutor of the administrative judge of the antiterrorism courts. MPA Jam Awais is currently in judicial custody, while Jam Karim is on bail.
Jibran Nasir, counsel for the NCHR, said an application by the commission to become a party to the proceedings of the murder was already pending before the trial court.
“The application was given under Section 9(b) of the National Commission for Human Rights Act 2012,” Nasir told Voicepk.
According to Section 9(b) of the NHRC Act, the Commission can intervene can intervene in any proceeding involving any allegation of violation of human rights pending before a court by making an application for becoming a party to the proceedings before such court. Nasir said the application was filed on behalf of Anis Haroon, Sindh member of the NCHR.
The counsel for the NCHR said the trial court could not take up their application as the final charge sheet had not been submitted. “Now the charge sheet has been filed, we will take up the application with the court,” Nasir added.
Nasir pointed out that the NCHR had also become an observer in the Usman Mirza case in Islamabad where a couple was harassed and tortured in an apartment.
Speaking to Voicepk, veteran women’s rights activist Anis Haroon, said that the Commission would petition the Sindh High Court if the trial court approved the removal of the names of the accused PPP legislators. She said the commission was following the high-profile murder case. “The commission has noted the coercion and pressure on Nazim Jokhio’s wife and other family members who have announced that they would not pursue the case in courts,” Haroon said.
“The NCHR on Thursday also forestalled attempts by the PPP lawmakers getting a clean chit from the Sindh High Court,” she added.
The SHC has converted bail applications of accused Jam Karim into protective bail for three days and directed that he appeared before the anti-terrorism administrative judge where charge sheet had been presented, Nasir told Voicepk.
He said the administrative judge had also transferred the Nazim Jokhio murder case to the anti-terrorism court-15. The council said they would appear before the anti-terrorism court on Friday (April 15) to take up the commission’s pending application under Section 9(b) of the NCHR Act. “The NCHR will challenge the removal of both lawmakers from the list of accused persons,” Nasir said.
In February 2022, Nazim Jokhio’s family had informed the court that the Prosecutor General’s office’s request for further investigation is mala fide for exerting more pressure upon the deceased family to enter into a compromise, Nasir said. The counsel said the investigation officer claimed that the removal of the legislators’ name was based on the changed statement of Jokhio’s family.
The investigation officer had removed 13 persons, including the PPP lawmakers, in the final charge sheet under which three guards of the PPP legislators — Haider Ali, Meer Ali and Niaz Salari —are now charged with murdering Nazim Jokhio. Only one suspect, Niaz Salar, said to be a servant of the lawmakers, is said to be absconding in the case.
In a statement on April 14, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) called on the Sindh government to pursue Jokhio case.
‘MATTER OF GRAVE CONCERN: HRCP
The HRCP expressed grave concern over the decision to exclude two sitting PPP lawmakers from the list of accused in the murder of Nazim Jokhio on grounds of lack of evidence. “HRCP observes that this development follows closely on the heels of the pressure and isolation that Shireen Jokhio has cited as her reasons for ‘forgiving’ those accused of brutally torturing and murdering her husband last November.”
Highlighting that the coincidence seems unlikely, the HRCP said Shireen Jokhio’s decision was certainly not voluntary and should not be considered legally acceptable.
“In the present political situation, this should be a test case for the Sindh government to show that it will put human rights and justice before short-term political interests.”
The HRCP said it had been monitoring the Jokhio case closely and considered Nazim Jokhio a human rights defender. The commission insisted that there should be no impunity for harm to any human rights defender in any circumstances.