- Web Desk
- 7 Minutes ago
Daughter’s murderer Shabbar extradited to Italy, but there’s a catch
- Web Desk
- Sep 01, 2023
ISLAMABAD: A private jet carrying Italian law enforcement officers was scheduled to arrive at Islamabad a little past midnight on September 1. The plan was to take Shabbar Abbas – a Pakistani man convicted of murdering his own daughter in the name of ‘honour’ – to Italy, where he has a fugitive status.
The diplomatic machinery in Islamabad was operating at full steam to make the transfer. A convicted criminal is in the custody of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), ordered by the Ministry of Interior – having followed most legal and diplomatic principles – to be handed over to the Italian authorities.
Finally, the specially designated Air Force Falcon 900 – that arrived hours earlier than its designated time – transports Abbas from Islamabad, landing at Rome’s Ciampino Airport shortly after midnight.
“The extradition of Saman Abbas’ father from Pakistan, who stands accused in Italy of the brutal murder of his daughter, marks a crucial advancement in allowing the wheels of justice to turn; it stands as the outcome of unwavering and steadfast determination exhibited by all Italian authorities involved in this intricate and sensitive case,” Italian Premier Giorgia Meloni announces as reported by the ANSA news agency.
It is not like an innocent man is being punished. He committed a murder in the jurisdiction of Italy and he is wanted there for his trial and punishment. What is the cause of the alarm then?
Before going through the legal part, let’s jog through the story that led to the events. It’s April 2021 in Novellara, near Reggio Emilia, Italy. Shabbar Abbas and his wife Nazia Shaheen want to marry off their 18-year-old daughter, Saman Abbas, to one of her cousins. Having lived in Italy, and knowing her rights in the country, Saman refuses to undergo a marriage arranged by her parents.
She runs away from home and seeks refuge in a women’s shelter. However, the father and the mother coax her out of the shelter on the false promises that her will would be honoured, only to have her brother strangle her to death in the name of honour. Saman is then buried by her cousins, Ikram Ijaz and Nomanul Haq, while her uncle, Danish Husnain, stands there watching the burial.
For everyone else, Saman becomes a missing person, with her boyfriend reporting it to the police leading to the beginning of an investigation that landed the carabinieri in Islamabad. In September 2021, Danish Hasnain was apprehended in France through a European Arrest Warrant, marking a breakthrough in the effort to ascertain the location of Saman Abbas’ remains with the help of the now-apprehended Husnain in finding the location of the burial.
It’s January 2022 in Italy. The lawyer representing the Penelope Association for missing persons, and a women rights group confirms that Saman’s body was identified through dental records.
During this time, Shabbar Abbas and his wife have escaped to Pakistan and sought refuge in their ancestral village of Charanwala in the Mandi Bahauddin district of Punjab. The parents were captured on CCTV at a Milan airport while catching a flight to Pakistan. Eventually, Rome requests Pakistan to arrest and hand Shabbar Abbas over to the Italian government in connection with the alleged murder of his daughter.
It’s September 2022 in Pakistan. The Additional Deputy Commissioner Islamabad issues “nonbailable arrest warrants” under the Extradition Act 1972 for Shabbar Abbas and Nazia Shaheen and tasks the FIA to arrest and present them before the court. The FIA complies. Abbas is arrested from his village in November and a case ensues at the court which culminates in a verdict accepting the extradition plea of the Italian government. Later, the Ministry of Interior forwarded a summary to the cabinet that also gives approval for his extradition.
It’s August 16, 2023, in Pakistan. Jail Authorities are ordered by the interior ministry to hand over Shabbar to the FIA again, and within 15 days to the Italian authorities.
Shabbar’s lawyer tried to get a stay order, but failed. Proceedings begin to formulate the extradition possible, in the absence of an extradition treaty.
In a conversation with Hum News English, the counsel of Shabbar, Akhtar Mehmood said, “the family made a wrong decision by appointing a different counsel for the appeal at the Islamabad High Court. This counsel was not well-prepared for the trial proceedings, which subsequently resulted in the inability to secure any relief from the court,” while criticising the family for “not effectively engaging with the Government of Pakistan in correspondence”.
So far, so good. What’s the fuss?
Pakistan does not have an extradition treaty with Italy, but the United Nations provides room for times such extraordinary cases rear their heads. There is a perfectly legal route to take. But the sense of urgency implied there was more to it than meets the eye.
Shabbar Abbas’s appeal for a stay order against the Inquiry Magistrate’s decision to extradite him is scheduled to be heard on September 7 – the case is sub judice. By the time his case is heard, he would be in another country, on another continent for a week. Regardless of Shabbar’s fate in Italy and notwithstanding what might have come out of the court hearing – the question that needs attention is: Can the government of Pakistan hand over an individual to a foreign country while he is set to be heard by a court of law?
And what precedence will this case set for the future of Pakistani diplomacy? If Shabbar could be handed over today – and rightly so, considering his crimes, couldn’t the ministry wait until the court hearing was over so that the process could take place without controversies?
While these questions might go unanswered for a while, the Italian government has characterized the extradition as a significant stride toward the administration of justice.
Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani termed the extradition a remarkable display of diplomatic efforts. “We express our gratitude to Pakistan for its cooperative approach. With this step, the path of justice is now set to unfold,” he wrote on social media platform X.