KARACHI: Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, the prime accused in the kidnapping and murder of American Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, was shifted from Karachi to Lahore on Thursday, a jail official and a family member of a co-accused in the case said.
On assignment for the Wall Street Journal in the months after Al-Qaeda 9/11 attacks on the United States, Pearl was kidnapped in Karachi and later beheaded. The militants videoed his execution.
Sheikh, who was the main suspect in the 2002 kidnapping and murder, was acquitted by a panel of three Pakistani judges.
Sheikh’s transfer to Lahore was first confirmed to Arab News by Sheikh Aslam, the brother of a co-accused in the case, who was at Karachi Central Jail for a routine meeting with his sibling on Thursday afternoon.
“Omar was taken away from his room to the airport amid tight security,” he said. “It was about 5pm when security personnel came in. Omar was already prepared for his journey to Lahore.”
The development was also confirmed by a jail official who requested anonymity to Arab News.
“He [Sheikh] has been finally taken out of Karachi,” he said.
Aslam said Sheikh was already told about being moved to Lahore yesterday, Wednesday, though “the security personnel came today and told him they were taking him to Lahore.”
Last month, Pakistan’s apex court allowed Sheikh’s transfer from Karachi to Lahore where his family resides.
Punjab Additional Advocate General Faisal Chaudhry informed the court that Sheikh would be kept in the same colony where employees of the Lahore’s Kot Lakhpat Jail lived.
The Supreme Court on January 30 overturned Sheikh’s death sentence and ordered the authorities to move him from his death cell to a state rest house.
The court gave the order while hearing an appeal filed by the provincial administration of Sindh, requesting it to review its decision in December to free Sheikh and three others who were convicted of Pearl’s 2002 beheading.
Both appeals were rejected by a three-member bench that ordered Sheikh’s release.
On February 2, the Sindh government said in a directive that the accused would be moved to a new accommodation outside the main jail building, though still within the prison facility.
The provincial administration’s order, a copy of which is available with Arab News, required that Sheikh and his co-accused should not get access to the Internet or any communication device.
The directive also instructed the province’s prison chief to ensure the safety of prisoners which was to be jointly provided by the police and rangers.
Addressing a group of journalists in Washington in February this year, a spokesperson for the US Department of State said that the Biden administration was deeply concerned about the developments related to people who were thought to be involved in the kidnapping and murder of the American journalist.
“We are alarmed by the recent order to move Sheikh and his co-conspirators from prison,” he said.
Aslam also told Arab News that Sheikh’s counsel had submitted an application, requesting the additional chief secretary of Punjab to allow his client to meet his family in Lahore on Friday.