The courts are one place where the couples, who marry against the will of their families have felt safe in a province which is a hotbed for honour killings, have considered to be their safest refuge. However, the cold-blooded murder of Raheela Sehto on Wednesday, right in front of a bench of Sindh High Court will make to-be couples stop and think for sure.
Raheela, 22 years old, received one fatal point-blank shot in the neck when the judges had returned from a break at around 11:30 am. She was killed by a lawyer, Javed Iqbal Shaikh, whose black coat helped him manage to sneak in the weapon. He is also her brother.
“He [Javed] tried to come near Raheela many times but the police pushed him back,” said Zafar Sehto, Raheela’s brother-in-law. “But he succeeded to get to her when people stood up the judges entered the courtroom after the break.”
Zafar said that these few seconds distracted the police and Javed executed Raheela. He also tried to kill her husband, Zulfiqar Sehto, but the police grabbed him before he could take an aim.
The couple had married in court on June 30. After Raheela’s family lodged a case with the police for kidnapping, the couple filed a petition seeking protection from the high court on July 3. “Her brother has been trying to kill us since the day we married,” said Zulfiqar. “We have been in hiding all this time.”
Zulfiqar said that his family approached the Shaikhs with a proposal to marry Raheela three times over the last one-and-a-half-year. But Javed, who is the head of the family, refused them. “Raheela had made it clear to her family that she will marry me,” said the grieving widower. “However, she wanted to make her family agree to her marrying me. It was when her family arranged another proposal for her from Rahimyar Khan in Punjab that we decided to elope and marry in court.”
Raheela and Zulfiqar were also attacked last month when they had come to attend a hearing at Sindh High Court. However, they escaped unscathed.
The killer is caught
Meanwhile, the police have arrested Javed and two of his accomplices. An FIR has been registered on Zulfiqar’s request in the Cantt police station. It nominated five men, Bagh Ali Shaikh, Ashfaq Shaikh, Abdul Sattar Shaikh and Sodagar Shaikh for murder.
But Javed had an explanation for doing what he did. “I lost my mind,” he told the reporters later. “I did that in rage because she had dishonoured the family.” He also admitted to trying to kill his brother-in-law and regretted that he could not get his hands on him.
Security at the court
Anyone who enters the high court premises has to go through two checks. The first check is at the main entrance where policemen search everyone with a metal detector. The second check takes place before the courtroom where a walk-through gate is installed. But the policemen often allow familiar faces and lawyers to come in without a checking them.
Headquarters SP Amjad Shaikh acknowledged this lapse in security and suspended 19 policemen, including the security in charge, Sub Inspector Ali Nawaz Solangi.
According to Additional Advocate General Allah Bachayo Soomro, the SHC Chief Justice Mushir Alam took notice of the incident and has ordered an inquiry report to be sent to him.