A suspected accomplice in suicide bombings targeting the All Saints Church in Peshawar has been acquitted by court. On September 22, 2013 two suicide bombers hit the church just when the worshippers had finished Sunday service. This was the deadliest attack on Pakistani Christians. The attack left more than 250 dead while hundreds sustained life changing injuries.
The accused Zahir Shah was acquitted by the court, purportedly the prosecution failed to prove him guilty before Anti-Terrorism Court Judge Tariq Yousaf Zai. The September 18 ruling of the court said: “The prosecution has miserably failed to prove its case against the accused, Zahir Shah, beyond shadow of doubt.”
Zahir Shah’s defense counsel maintained before the court that police has falsely involved his client in the case “to show their efficiency to their high-ups”. He said that Zahir was not arrested based upon witness statement or intelligence reports. “No single piece of evidence on file which can connect the accused with the commission of offense, except the alleged confessional statement, which too is the outcome of force, coercion”.
Pakistan Explosive Substances Act of 1908, was invoked against Zahir Shah; the law carries a punishment of at least seven years of imprisonment for illegally manufacturing explosives or bombs or possessing them with the intent of endangering life or property. Police also charged him under the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1997, which carries capital punishment.
On the other hand police maintained that during custody Zahir Shah had confessed helping the two suicide bombers and said that he knew them. The court was told that four other accomplices have been identified by their first names but remain at large still. Zahir Shah was arrested in 2015, in connection with another crime, during custody he purportedly confessed to having beein involved in the church bombings.
Within minutes blood and gore swept across the historic White Stoned church on Sunday September 22, 2013 when the service ended. The All Saints’ Church was built in 1883, located inside the Kohati Gate of the old walled north western city of Pakistan and is a parish of the Church of Pakistan. It is only one of its kinds in terms of its architecture. The church was inaugurated on December 27, 1883.