The US has come down heavily on Pakistan after the latter’s Supreme Court has acquitted the alleged killers of the American journalist, Daniel Pearl.
US Secretary of State Tony Blinken, in his first phone call with Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, has told Islamabad to explore all legal options to ensure that the “killers” of the Wall Street Journal reporter are brought to justice.
Pakistan had hoped to overcome the allegations of supporting terrorism by helping the US negotiate the Afghan-Taliban talks. State Department Spokesperson Ned Price’s statement mentioned Blinken talking to Qureshi over “the importance of continued US-Pakistan cooperation on the Afghan peace process”.
Spoke with @SMQureshiPTI on ensuring accountability for convicted terrorist Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh and others responsible for Daniel Pearl’s murder. The Foreign Minister and I underscored the importance of continued U.S.-Pakistan cooperation in supporting regional stability.
— Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) January 29, 2021
However, the conversation was overshadowed by the US’ concern over the Pakistan Supreme Court’s decision to acquit those involved in the sensational kidnapping and murder of Daniel Pearl in 2002.
Pearl was kidnapped and brutally murdered in Karachi, Pakistan when he was probing links between Pakistani militant groups and British terrorist Richard Colvin Reid. On Thursday, Pakistan’s Supreme Court allowed Omar Sheikh, the prime suspect in the case, to walk free after it rejected the appeal against Sindh High Court’s decision.
At the same time, the court accepted the appeal against the sentence given to Sheikh for the kidnapping of Pearl and acquitted him in this case as well. In April 2020, Pakistan’s Sindh High Court had overturned the convictions of Sheikh and his three aides – Fahad Naseem, Sheikh Adil, and Salman Saqib.
Talking to Qureshi, Blinken underlined “Sheikh was indicted in the United States in 2002 for hostage-taking and conspiracy to commit hostage-taking” and “the 1994 kidnapping of another United States citizen in India”.
“We expect the Pakistani government to expeditiously review its legal options to ensure justice is served. We take note of the Attorney General’s statement that he intends to seek review and recall of the decision. We are also prepared to prosecute Sheikh in the United States for his horrific crimes against an American citizen,” the State Department quoted Blinken as saying.
Anticipating a backlash from the US over the acquittal, the Sindh government on Friday filed an appeal in the Registrar’s Office of the Supreme Court against the January 28 decision of the court.
After pressure from United States, Sindh Government in Pakistan today filed a review appeal at Supreme Court in the case of American Journalist Daniel Pearl who was murdered by terrorist Omar Sheikh. Sheikh was acquitted by the Supreme Court recently but remains in detention. pic.twitter.com/0FIIpP1Kba
— Aditya Raj Kaul (@AdityaRajKaul) January 29, 2021
It is pertinent to note that Supreme Court’s decision to acquit the convicts came after a 2019 letter written by the accused was submitted to the court, in which he admitted his “limited involvement” in Pearl’s beheading.
The accused are currently in a prison in Karachi. There is another case related to the imprisonment of the accused, which will be heard in the Supreme Court on February 1.
Husain Haqqani, former Pakistani ambassador to the US, writing for Wall Street Journal said that Pakistan Supreme Court’s decision “could also jeopardize Pakistan’s efforts to get off the United Nations “grey list” of countries with inadequate controls over terrorism financing”.
He underlines that “observers of Pakistan’s complex relationship with jihadist groups” will see the decision as “part of a pattern of sympathy for terrorists”. Haqqani recalled that Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan had once called Osama Bin Laden a “martyr”.