Omar Saeed Sheikh’s acquittal dominates initial contacts between Pakistan and Biden Administration.

ISLAMABAD/WASHINGTON: US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, spoke with Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and discussed “how to ensure accountability for convicted terrorist Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh and others responsible for the kidnapping and murder of American journalist Daniel Pearl,” according to an official handout circulated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Islamabad.

Regarding the Daniel Pearl case, Shah Mahmood Qureshi said that it was “important and in mutual interest that justice is served through legal means”.

Pakistan’s top court on Thursday ordered authorities to release Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, a terrorist convicted of beheading US journalist Daniel Pearl, dismissing petitions against his release and acquittal (on murder charges) by the Sindh High Court (SHC).

A three-member bench of the apex court headed by Justice Mushir Alam announced a brief verdict with a 2-1 majority.

“The court has come out to say that there is no offence that he has committed in this case,” Mahmood Sheikh, who represented Sheikh, told AFP.

Omar Sheikh was convicted of helping lure Pearl to a meeting in Pakistan’s southern port city of Karachi, during which he was kidnapped.

The 38-year-old South Asia bureau chief of The Wall Street Journal, Daniel Pearl, was researching for a story on religious extremists in January 2002 in Karachi, when he was abducted and slain.

Pearl family ‘shocked’

Soon after the court verdict, the reaction of parents of Daniel Pearl appeared in the media against the verdict.

The Pearl family was in “complete shock”, the family’s lawyer, Faisal Siddiqi, told Reuters, adding that the court decision was a travesty of justice. “No amount of injustice will defeat our resolve to fight for justice for Daniel Pearl,” he said.

US ‘outraged’

The administration of President Joe Biden Thursday expressed its displeasure over the development and offered to prosecute the accused in the United States.

The White House is “outraged by the Pakistani Supreme Court’s decision,” chief spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters, calling the ruling “an affront to terrorism victims everywhere” and demanded the Pakistani government “review its legal options.”

‘Horrifying’ decision

Pakistan’s SC decision to order the release of a man accused in the beheading of American journalist Daniel Pearl is “horrifying,” says Steven Butler, Asia program coordinator at the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Butler adds it is a terrible signal for journalists around the world that a prominent journalist can be brutally murdered in an international incident with no one held to account.

‘Foreign spokesperson reacts’

“Not in a position to comment on the verdict of supreme court in the Daniel Pearl case until the full verdict is issued, have seen the media reports”, said the foreign office spokesperson, Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri, in his weekly briefing upon asked if government will challenge or not.

Sindh government files review petition against acquittal of Omar Sheikh

A day after the Supreme Court acquitted Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, the Sindh government files Petitioner, PG Sindh, 3 respondents before the SC, seeking suspension of verdict, interim relief and courts intervention for restrain from his release, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) sources confirmed.

Reham Khan, the former wife of cricketer-turned-Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan in her tweet termed the review appeal a very good decision.

“This is the least we can do in the #DanielPearl case as his loved ones must be so deeply hurt. It’s an embarrassing moment to be reminded of the brutal murder & then to let the perpetrators go free,” she wrote.

Abdullah Zahid

Abdullah Zahid is TPD's correspondent in Karachi. He reports on Pakistani political affairs.

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