KARACHI: No one, including guards of a Clifton superstore, came to the rescue of Awais Ali Shah, the son of the sitting Sindh High Court Chief Justice, when masked men kidnapped him on Monday afternoon, eyewitnesses said on Tuesday.

According to an old security guard, Mr Shah had just stepped out of the market with a small shopping bag in hand, when “four armed men carrying Kalashnikovs, with their faces masked with black cloth, came right in front of him. As [Shah] began shouting for help, one of them started punching him in the face while others got hold of his arms,” said the guard.

Police have placed a large stone at the car park of the supermarket in Clifton where Advocate Awais Ali Shah parked his car before being taken away by masked men on Monday.—Photo by Fahim Siddiqi/ White Star
Police have placed a large stone at the car park of the supermarket in Clifton where Advocate Awais Ali Shah parked his car before being taken away by masked men on Monday.—Photo by Fahim Siddiqi/ White Star

Despite the parking lot and its surroundings being packed with people, no one came forward to help the victim, including the guards.

“I was rooted to the spot, because honestly, it all happened too quickly for me to do anything or even call for help. Those men were carrying Kalashnikovs and it seemed they’d shoot anyone trying to get in their way. Plus, they were quick,” said the guard.


‘It all happened too quickly for me to do anything’


Eyewitnesses narrated that it took the men about five minutes to grab hold of Mr Shah and push him into their car as he continued to cry for help. Another eyewitness, a valet at the parking lot, said the men came out of a white Corolla as was visible from the logo on the car, and sped away once they had captured Mr Shah.

On Tuesday afternoon the parking lot opposite the supermarket was filled with media persons and security guards. Many of the media persons were seen asking the guards if they recalled anything about the kidnapping, while a police van was parked nearby to “calm” the situation, according to sources.

When the security staff was approached by Dawn to inquire about the incident, almost half of them turned out to be private guards of people either shopping at the supermarket or in the shops nearby. Some said they were asked overnight to “beef up security” near the supermarket.

Those who did agree to speak about the incident asked not to be named.

According to eyewitnesses, the Clifton police arrived after iftar time, around 8.15pm. “The police started asking people if they saw anything. Two people came forward to talk, one is a security guard, Manzoor Khan, and the other is Gul Munir, from a parking company named Salaar Company,” a valet parking officer told Dawn.

He added that as the two men are still in the custody of the police, the other guards are now scared. “Four of my staff members didn’t come to work today as they feared they would be taken away by the police and held responsible for the kidnapping, or considered facilitators,” he added.

Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah and Home Minister Sohail Anwar Sial brief Sindh High Court Chief Justice Sajjad Ali Shah on steps taken for the recovery of his son Advocate Awais Ali Shah in his SHC chamber on Tuesday.—PPI
Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah and Home Minister Sohail Anwar Sial brief Sindh High Court Chief Justice Sajjad Ali Shah on steps taken for the recovery of his son Advocate Awais Ali Shah in his SHC chamber on Tuesday.—PPI

ASI Arif Shah at the Clifton police station said Mr Shah’s silver Suzuki Swift (AZT-535) was parked near the supermarket, opposite a women’s clothing store. “The men didn’t let him reach the car at all. They kidnapped him right outside the supermarket giving him no time to escape,” the ASI added.

He said the men were in a Japanese reconditioned Toyota Corolla (SP-0586). “They were dressed in a camouflage uniform with a police cap on their heads and black cloth wrapped around half of their faces,” he added.

The police have taken fingerprints from Mr Shah’s car and have recorded statements of both eyewitnesses.

An FIR has not been registered as yet, ASI Arif Shah added.

Court work suspended

Legal proceedings at the Sindh High Court and the subordinate judiciary remained completely suspended on Tuesday in protest against the kidnapping of the SHC chief justice’s son, also a practising lawyer of the high court.

Advocate Awais Ali Shah, eldest among the three siblings, had opened a year ago his law firm after remaining associated with a renowned law firm for five years.

Graduated from a law college in London, he is also a visiting faculty at S.M. Law College.

Sources close to the chief justice told Dawn that it was a little before Iftar on Monday when Advocate Shah’s family learnt about him going missing after they found his cellular phone switched off.

They said that it was later collected that the abducted son of the chief justice had lastly called one of his friends after 2pm after which there was no contact with him.

The incident also sent a wave of fear among many lawyers who spoke about their security concern on the condition of anonymity. “When a lawyer, who is son of the chief justice of the province, could be abducted in broad daylight in a busy business district, who else can feel safe and secure?” wondered one of them.

The SHC did not take up any case, as the lawyers announced their boycott and stayed away from the proceedings.

Same was the situation in other courts, including city courts, Malir district courts, anti-terrorism courts, accountability courts and banking courts.

The Sindh High Court Bar Association and other lawyers bodies passed unanimous resolutions against the kidnapping of the lawyer. They demanded that the government immediately recover him.

The Sindh Bar Council also condemned the incident and expressed grave concern over the lack of security. The SBC is likely to announce its future course of action at a press conference on Wednesday.

Published in Dawn, June 22nd, 2016