By Ishaq Tanoli
KARACHI: A sessions court on Monday sentenced an accused to death for killing TV producer Afreen Baig while it acquitted her husband for want of evidence.
Judge Abdul Razzaq, who conducted the trial inside the Central Prison, found accused Mohammad Bux, the victim’s car driver, guilty of killing Afreen Baig in October 2004 in her DHA residence. However, he exonerated Farooq Mengal, her husband and a co-accused in the case, from the charge of masterminding the murder.
The judge directed the convict to pay Rs100,000 as a compensation to the legal heirs of the deceased. In case of non-payment, he would have to undergo an additional six-month imprisonment.
The judgment said that after considering the entire evidence placed on the record, the court was of the considered view that the prosecution had established its case against accused Mohammad Bux beyond a shadow of a doubt, but failed to prove its case against co-accused Farooq Mengal.
It further stated that Mohammad Bux had confessed to having killed the woman during his statement recorded under Section 164 of the criminal procedure code in the court of a judicial magistrate, adding that the JM concerned had recorded the confessional statement after completing all legal formalities and no illegality or procedural error was found in this regard, as the accused had voluntarily recorded his statement.
The court further observed in its verdict that the evidence of prosecution witnesses, medical reports and recovery of stolen articles in the possession of the accused had fully corroborated the confessional statement.
The judgment stated that Mohammad Bux said in his confessional statement that he had killed the woman on the inducement of her husband, Farooq Mengal, since he [the husband] was angry at her and suspected that Ms Baig had an illicit relationship with her former husband, adding that the confessional statement of an accused could not be used against the co-accused.
It added that Farooq Mengal was charged with having masterminded the murder of his wife because he was annoyed over her alleged relationship with her ex-husband and had an eye on the wealth of the deceased, but the prosecution had failed to establish the charge against him.
The judge observed that none of the prosecution witnesses deposed that the accused was unhappy over his wifeÂ’s alleged relationship with someone and it was also important to note that accused Mohammad Bux was hired by the complainant party and not the accused Mengal, adding that the complainant did not mention in his statement recorded under Section 154 of the criminal procedure code that the accused indented to grab the deceased’s wealth. Only the victim’s sister, Shireen Saleem, said in her testimony that she had heard the accused shout at Afreen asking her to bring home money from her brothers. However, the verdict said the witness admitted during cross-examination that she did not disclose this to her mother or brothers and revealed it with a delay of around 75 days, but her evidence became doubtful, as she failed to justify the delay in disclosing such a sensitive piece of information.
The prosecution also examined the deceased’s cook, Abdul Rashid, who testified that he had heard a conversation between Mohammad Bux and Farooq Mengal regarding the murder plan of Afreen Baig a few days before the incident, it added. However, the court observed that the testimony of witness Rashid had no legal weight, since he went to his native town shortly after the incident and recorded his statement to the investigation officer after two months and, more importantly, he failed to identify the accused.
The verdict concluded that the prosecution was unable to establish its case against Farooq Mengal while the case was of circumstantial evidence as there was no direct proof against the accused.
The court also found accused Mohammad Bux guilty of committing a robbery in the house of the deceased after killing her, and sentenced him to seven years in prison.
The convict was also fined Rs10,000 and in case of default, he would have to go through an additional six-month jail term.
The judge announced the verdict after hearing final arguments from the special public prosecutor, the counsel for the complainant and the lawyers for the accused persons.
According to the prosecution, Afreen Baig, a TV artiste and producer, was killed in her DHA residence on Oct 14, 2004 by her driver, Mohammad Bux, and his wife, Zahida. Her husband, Farooq Mengal, was alleged to have masterminded the murder of the TV artiste.