The short order was was announced by a three-member bench of the apex court.
The decision comes after the Sindh government decided to challenge the decision of the SHC, which on April 2 commuted the death sentence of key accused Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh to seven years, while acquitting three others who were serving life sentences.
However, the Sindh provincial government ordered immediate detentions of the four men under the West Pakistan Maintenance of Public Order (MPO) Ordinance 1960.
The SHC again nullified the detention on December 24, 2020, and orders of immediate release of the accused were given.
The US had expressed “deep concern” over the SHC order.
The Sindh government however, did not release the accused and challenged the SHC decision in the Supreme Court, maintaining that orders of the latter on September 28, 2020, in the case were still to be take into reference.
The Sindh government contented that the accused persons fall in the category of the “enemy aliens”, referring to the Supreme Court’s September.
On January 25, a separate bench of the top court maintained: “One of the findings recorded by the SC short order is that the respondents are not in the enemy aliens within the meaning of Article 10 (9) of the constitution. Meaning this term is hitherto judicially unexplained.”
This has led to Thursday’s decision of the court to order release of the accused.
The decision holds great importance as the US has kept a close eye on the proceedings and has called on Pakistan to punish the accused.
However, the top court order may have an impact on Pakistan’s bid to find pathways with the newly elected administration under President Joe Biden.
The 38-year-old South Asia bureau chief of The Wall Street Journal was doing research on religious extremism in Karachi when he was abducted in January 2002.
A graphic video showing his beheading was delivered to the US consulate a month later.
Since then, at least 23 suspects were produced in the case while Sheikh being the prime suspect.
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