Opinion and Editorial

The Daniel Pearl story

Filed on February 18, 2014

THE NEWS that Omar Sheikh, convicted of the murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, tried to commit suicide in his prison cell in Hyderabad has brought the British-Pakistani back in the limelight and reminded the world, now preoccupied with other issues, of the brutal incident in 2002 and its far from satisfactory aftermath.

Perhaps it should be taken as a sign that Sheikh’s case should be re-opened, especially with the misgivings that surfaced three years ago that the Sheikh arrest may be just the tip of the iceberg and there may be other major actors involved who are yet to be brought to justice. In some ways it is like a lesser shadow of the Lockerbie bombing in 1988 that killed 270 people on the Pan Am Flight 103. Libyan Abdelbaset Al Megrahi was found guilty of having placed the bomb on board after a hurried investigation that had only the flimsiest evidence against him. Still avowing his innocence Megrahi would have probably died in prison but for his being diagnosed with terminal cancer and released in 2009 after a successful intervention by Muammar Gaddafi. However, the surfacing of classified documents later raised the strong possibility that the CIA had botched up the investigation and made a sacrificial victim of Megrahi to appease the American public outrage over the carnage. Now Megrahi, dead but not forgotten, is considered to be equally a victim of injustice though the West has not yet officially acknowledged its injustice to him.

In Sheikh’s incident too there seems to be ground for re-opening the Daniel Pearl abduction and murder case. Three years ago, an independent investigation led by a friend and colleague of Pearl reported that the actual killer was Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the man who was said to have plotted the 9/11 attacks in the US. Sheikh is said to have been involved in the American journalist’s abduction. So though Sheikh is a player in the case that dominated the media worldwide and later inspired a Hollywood film, there are other co-players whose involvement needs to be brought to light. The Pakistan government, like the US government after Lockerbie, was under intense pressure and had to act quickly to show the international community that rule of law prevailed in the country and it had successfully punished Pearl’s murderers. So the loose ends were ignored, including Sheikh’s reported association with the ISI. Now with his appeal pending for nine years, it seems the case is going nowhere and the truth may never be known completely. Perhaps the sequence of events would be revealed only in the future, like it was in the Lockerbie case.

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