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SC formed new JIT to probe Dr Shahid Masood claims

29 January, 2018

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LAHORE: The Supreme Court on Sunday formed a new joint investigation team (JIT) to probe the claims made by television anchor Dr Shahid Masood about the suspect in Zainab murder case.

Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar ordered the formation of the JIT while presiding over the three-member apex bench conducting a suo motu hearing into the Zainab case at the apex court’s Lahore registry.

The chief justice ordered TC anchorperson Dr Shahid Masood, who was present in court, to appear before the newly formed JIT and present evidence to back his claims regarding foreign bank accounts of the suspected arrested in the Zainab case.

The new JIT will be headed by Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) Director General Bashir Ahmed.

The chief justice clarified that the Bashir Ahmed-led JIT would operate separately from the one formed earlier by the Punjab government. “The Mohammad Idrees-led JIT will only investigate the murder case,” the chief justice said, adding that the new JIT would focus on Masood’s allegations.

The anchorperson had claimed during a TV show that Zainab’s suspected rapist and murderer was the member of a pornography gang, which also included a provincial minister from Punjab. During the previous hearing of the case, Masood had also told the court that the suspect had 37 foreign accounts in commercial banks.

His claims about bank accounts were, however, rejected by the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) in its report to the JIT that was formed earlier by the Punjab government to probe the rape and murder of Zainab.

“Do not talk about unrelated matters … give us proof of the bank accounts,” the chief justice told the anchor on Sunday. “If the statements you have made turn out to be true, we will give you the medal for number one journalist,” he said, warning, “If your news turns out to be untrue, [then] you cannot even imagine what will happen.”

During the hearing, Masood requested time from the court to allow him to complete what he wished to say regarding the case. He went on to claim that Zainab was gang raped, adding that only one criminal had been arrested. “They are trying to protect the gang that they have nurtured,” he added.

“Are you aware that these allegations can change the direction of the investigations?” the chief justice asked the anchor.

The court told the anchor that they could order his name to be put on the exit control list, saying that he would have to appear before the JIT formed by the court.

The court ordered that investigations into the case should be completed as soon as possible and a challan be filed. Prosecutor General Punjab Ehtisham Qadir was asked to oversee the filing of the challan.

The chief justice ordered Dr Ashraf Tahir, director general of the Punjab Forensic Science Agency (PFSA), to use modern technology and devices to quickly complete investigations. “You are a capable person and I am depending on you quite a lot,” the chief justice told him. The chief justice said that his personal number will be provided to the DG PFSA so that the latter may contact him in case of any problems with the probe.

During the hearing, the court barred Muhammad Amin, the father of six-year-old Zainab, and his lawyer from holding further press conferences.

Twelve media executives and anchors also appeared on the court orders.

Appearing before the bench, Zia Shahid of the Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors said that if neutral investigations are conducted, the truth behind Masood’s allegations can be unveiled. He noted that several incidents of child pornography had been reported.

When asked by the chief justice about his opinion regarding the formation of a JIT by the court, Shahid said “an independent JIT should be formed”.

Arif Nizami, former editor of The Nation and founder of Pakistan Today, told the court that if Masood’s allegations are not true, the statements he made regarding the case would be ‘equivalent to the death of journalism’.

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