Vinod SharmaIt may be recalled that Daniel Pearl, the South Asia Bureau Chief of the US newspaper, The Wall Street Journal, was abducted and beheaded while he was in Pakistan investigating a story in 2002 on the links between Pakistan’s powerful spy agency ISI and Al-Qaida. He had been researching links between Islamist terrorist activity in Karachi and Richard Reid, who tried to blow up a passenger plane using bombs hidden in his shoes.Prosecutors accused the main accused Sheikh of luring Pearl to a meeting with an Islamic cleric, when he was kidnapped on January 23, 2002 by a group claiming itself the National Movement for Restoration of Pakistani Sovereignty, claiming that Pearl was a spy. Nine days later on February 1, 2002, the terrorists beheaded Pearl. On May 16, his severed head and decomposed body were found cut into ten pieces, and buried along with an identifying jacket, in a shallow grave at Gadap, about 48 kilometers north of Karachi. When the police found Pearl’s remains three months after his murder, a Pakistani philanthropist Abdul Sattar Edhi, collected all of Pearl’s body parts and took them to the morgue. He helped ensure that Pearl’s remains were returned to the United States, where he was later interred in the Mount Sinai Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angles.Amid the global outcry and pressure from US, Pakistan’s then-President Pervez Musharraf had Omar Sheikh and the three other terrorists arrested in the same year.It is interesting to recall that Daniel Pearl’s murder took place after the main accused Sheikh, along with Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar and Mushtaq Ahmed Zargar, were released by India in 1999 and given safe passage to Afghanistan in exchange for nearly 150 passengers of hijacked Indian Airlines flight 814 during Atal Behari Vajpayee’s Government. It is pertinent to recall that a year after the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai, Sheikh made hoax calls to then Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, Chief of Army Staff Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, and then Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee from prison in a bid to heighten India-Pakistan tensions.India had also linked him to the 9/11 attacks, accusing him of taking part in transferring $100,000 to Mohammad Atta, one of the terrorists who flew planes into the World Trade Center in New York City.To recapitulate, letting the killers of Daniel Pearl go scot-free even when appeals are pending against their acquittal is a mockery of justice delivery system in Pakistan, where hard-core terrorists are given clean chits ‘for lack of evidence’. It is also a blot on the prosecuting security agencies who fail to provide ample evidence in the courts, willingly or unwillingly, leading to acquittal of terrorists.As far as the case of Daniel Pearl is concerned, the Pakistani Government should be squarely blamed for denial of justice, despite US pressure, to the family who lost their son at the hands of international terrorists. The family of Pearl is tossing from pillar to post for the last 18 years to ensure that killers of their beloved are adequately punished for the heinous crime they have committed. The Pakistani judiciary should also come forward to shake off the shackles of political pressure and other compulsions, to punish hard-core terrorists, like the Sheikh, while going an extra mile to set an example of impartiality and fairness. The courts should not submit under the lame excuse of ‘lack of evidence’ to let the terrorists have their heydays and perpetuate the pangs of the victims like Ruth and Judea.It is high time that Pakistan must adopt a clear cut and concrete policy to weed out terrorism and terrorists from its soil for its own good as the nation is now itself a hot-target of terrorism.It is in the interest of justice that the killers of Daniel Pearl are punished with impunity in accordance with law after reinvestigating all material facts so that terrorists like Sheikh should feel dreaded to commit such crimes in future and it will also give lasting peace to the soul of the courageous journalist, who laid down his life for upholding high tenets ofjournalism.(Concluded)
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