By: Rana Yasif
LAHORE: The father-in-law of one of the victims of CIA contractor Raymond Davis has been acquitted of the charge of murdering his wife and daughter after the witnesses in the case, who included his son, changed their statements.
Muhammad Shehzad Butt had been accused of killing his wife Nabeela Shehzad and daughter Zahra Shehzad in April because he disagreed with their plans for her remarriage and the fate of her fortune. A murder case was registered against him on the complaint of his son, who said he had witnessed the shooting, with two other witnesses who were also relatives.
Zahra Shehzad had been married to Faizan Haider, who Davis had shot dead near Qurtaba Chowk. Haider’s family was paid Rs100 million in diyat, with Rs25 million going to Zahra, for the release of Davis.
That money now stands to be divided among Zahra’s father, siblings and son under inheritance laws, unless there’s a will.
Earlier this month, one of Faizan’s brothers had petitioned the Lahore High Court seeking custody of Faizan and Zahra’s son from Shehzad Butt, saying the boy should not be under the care of a man who had killed his own wife and daughter to get his hands on the blood money.
Witnesses no more
But Additional Sessions Judge Muhammad Javaidul Hassan Chishti released Shehzad Butt on Sunday for lack of evidence after the witnesses retracted their statements.
“The record reveals that the witnesses namely Haider Ali, complainant, Sheikh Muhammad Asif and Ansar Ali have not deposed against the accused or in favour of the prosecution.
Only official witnesses are to be examined. There is no other material witness in the case. Even if the remaining witnesses are examined, there will be no probability of the conviction of the accused. As a consequence thereof, the accused is acquitted of the charge.
He is to be set at liberty forthwith, if not required in any other case,” said the judge’s written order, which was released on Monday.
Police officials said that after his release, Shehzad Butt had gone home and was living with his son.
According to the FIR of the case, Haider Ali had told the police that he and his uncle Sheikh Muhammad Asif were sitting in the drawing room of their house when they heard Shehzad Butt arguing with his wife and daughter.
He and his uncle had tried to stop the quarrel, but Shehzad pulled out a gun and shot Nabeela. He had then shot Zahra as she tried to run away.
According to the FIR, Haider Ali had said that their argument was over Zahra’s future, as the mother and daughter disagreed with the father about who she should marry. He had said that another relative, Ansar Ali, had also witnessed the murders.
But in his statement to the court, Haider Ali said that he had been at school at the Punjab College in Muslim Town on the day of the shooting and had not seen anything. He said that he had been informed of the shooting and had gone home to find the police already there. He said that the police officials had tricked him into signing blank pieces of paper on which they later allegedly drew up his complaint for the FIR. He said that his father was not the killer.
Sheikh Muhammad Asif and Ansar Ali, in their statements to the court, also denied witnessing the killing.
Lawyer Azam Nazir Tarar said that in his opinion, the court had been hasty in releasing the accused.
He said that the courts should be more careful in cases where witnesses change their statements.
He said that such outcomes whereby a person accused of a crime was released when the complainant who was their heir decided to change their statement – would lead to more crime.