ISLAMABAD: A district and sessions court on Monday indicted Shahnawaz Amir and his mother Sameena Shah in the grisly September murder of Pakistani-Canadian Sarah Inam, calling on the prosecution to summon its witnesses on December 14, the Inam family lawyer said.
Inam, a 37-year-old economist who worked in Abu Dhabi, was murdered with dumbbells, according to police, by her husband Shahnawaz Amir at a suburban Islamabad home on September 23.
Inam got married to the Amir of her own choice on July 18 in his hometown of Chakwal. The parents of the couple were not present at the event. Inam’s family has said she had met Amir only thrice before the marriage and had told the parents about the relationship after the marriage.
The indictment was issued by sessions court judge Atta Rabbani after he dismissed Shah’s application seeking to be discharged from the case.
“Both Amir and Shah have been charged in the murder case and have been informed about all the charges against them,” Inam's family lawyer, Rao Abdul Raheem, told Arab News.
Shah’s lawyer Nisar Asghar said both suspects had pleaded not guilty.
“Shah is charged with abatement to a crime under section 109 of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) and Amir is charged with murder under section 302 of the PPC,” Asghar told Arab News.
Raheem said the formal trial would now start and the court had asked the prosecutors to present witnesses on December 14.
“We expect that this would be a speedy trial like the Noor Mukadam murder case and the court will decide this case within three to five months,” he said.
The judge hearing the case was the same one who heard the Mukadam case, the lawyer said, referring to the 27-year-old daughter of a diplomat who was beheaded by a male friend last year in a case that drew an outpouring of anger over femicides in the South Asian nation.
According to the first information report in the Inam murder case, Amir’s mother was present in the house at the time of the murder and had called the police on September 23 and informed them that her son had murdered his wife with a dumbbell.
The police citation submitted by an investigation officer from Shahzad town police station said following an argument, Amir hit Inam with a showpiece and then hit her repeatedly with a dumbbell which caused her death.
The police citation also said Amir had told police that after a fight with Inam over the phone while she was still in Abu Dhabi, the suspect had told her he wanted a divorce. This happened two days before the murder.
Inam then traveled to Pakistan and arrived at Amir’s farmhouse in Chak Shehzad, Islamabad, from Abu Dhabi on September 22. The couple had an argument in Amir’s bedroom as Inam asked him about money she had wired him. The suspect subsequently beat her to death.
After the murder, the accused dragged Inam’s body to the bathroom and hid it in the bathtub.
Speaking about the decision to indict Shah in the case, Raheem said:
“She [Shah] was present in the house at the time of the murder, and she is the owner of the house where CCTV cameras stopped working just two days prior to the incident.”
The lawyer added: “When she [Inam] was in Abu Dhabi, Amir divorced her through a message on WhatsApp and she then came to Islamabad to know the reasons behind divorcing her in such a way.”
Shah’s lawyer Asghar said the divorce was not finalized as it was just pronounced in a message while legal requirements had not yet been completed.
“These are two different things, one is pronouncement of the divorce and the other is its completion, which requires issuance of a certificate by the same union council where Nikah took place,” he said.
“It does not mean that divorce has been completed as per the procedure given in the family laws of Pakistan. It was just pronounced but not confirmed and technically by the law, she was not divorced,” Asghar added.
Hundreds of women are killed in Pakistan every year, while thousands more suffer brutal violence. But few cases receive sustained media attention, and only a small fraction of perpetrators are ever punished or convicted by courts.
But Mukadam’s shocking murder, involving members of the privileged elite of Pakistani society, triggered an explosive reaction from women’s rights activists reckoning with pervasive violence.
It also increased pressure for a swift conclusion of the trial in a country known to have a sluggish justice system and where cases typically drag on for years.
Mukadam’s killer Zahir Jaffer received the death sentence in March but has appealed it in a higher court. The case is ongoing.