BY: Fazal Khaliq
MINGORA: In a surprising development, it emerged on Friday that in the trial of 10 accused in the high-profile attempted murder of education activist Malala Yousafzai, eight of them who were earlier reported to have been convicted were in fact acquitted by an anti-terrorism court in April this year.
The information about the trial, which remained shrouded in mystery because it had been held inside a military-controlled internment centre in Swat, revealed that only two of the accused, who were the hit men, had been convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. The other eight were exonerated by ATC Judge Mohammad Amin Kundi.
“The court handed down the judgment on April 30 but a written verdict has come now. Two of the 10 accused, Izharullah and Israrur Rehman, have been sentenced to life imprisonment, while the other eight were released due to lack of evidence,” said Azad Khan, Deputy Inspector General of Malakand Division.
He said both the convicts had been sent to the Haripur central prison.
“I am sure the government will file an appeal against the judgment,” he said, adding that there were four main accused in the case.
They are still at large and are believed to be in Afghanistan. They are: Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan’s chief Mullah Fazlullah, its Swat spokesman Sirajuddin, Habibur Rehman alias Masinda and Abdullah alias Abu Bakr.
The DIG said: “I don’t believe there is any conspiracy or mystery in this case. The court held its proceedings, but since the trial was conducted inside the internment centre, reporters had no access to its proceedings which led to misreporting of the initial judgment.”
Those acquitted are: Zafar Iqbal, son of Ahmed Khan; Adnan, son of Bakht Bar; Salman, son of Khana Gul; Irfan, son of Raza Khan; Hazrat Bilal, son of Saeed Ghulam; Zafar Ali, son of Rasool Khan; Shaukat Ali, son of Mohammad Khan; and Ikram, son of Shahzada.
Because of security reasons neither police nor judiciary’s representatives spoke to journalists when the court gave its verdict.
Malala Yousafzai, now a Nobel laureate, was attacked on Oct 9, 2012 when she was going home from school in a van. She was critically injured. Two schoolgirls, Kainat Riaz and Shazia Rehman, also suffered injuries.
In September last year, ISPR chief Maj Gen Asim Bajwa claimed that 10 men had been arrested in connection with the attack on Malala. He said the men were receiving orders directly from Mullah Fazlullah.
The prime suspect, Attaullah, had gone into hiding and was declared a proclaimed offender.
The authorities believed that Izharullah and Israrur Rehman had opened fire at Malala. Zafar Iqbal was described by the military as the local head of TTP which had carried out the attack.