ISLAMABAD: A man suspected of involvement in the assassination of former minorities minister Shahbaz Bhatti was sent on a seven-day remand by an anti-terrorism court on Tuesday.
Special Judge Anti-Terrorism Court-II Rana Masood Akhtar handed over the custody of Abid Malik to the Islamabad Police after SHO Bashir Ahmed sought a 10-day remand of the suspect.
In a written submission before the court, investigators said that Malik was nominated by Bhatti’s family in a supplementary statement handed to the police.
According to the investigators, Bhatti’s family had cited “property issues” which led to the murder of the former minister. The police said Malik was arrested on Monday at the Lahore Airport upon his arrival from Dubai.
Investigators had declared him an absconder of law, along with another suspect Ziaur Rehman, after warrants for their arrest were obtained from the ATC on August 29, 2011.
Police investigating the murder of Bhatti, who was gunned down in Islamabad on March 2, 2011, allegedly arrested Zia in Dubai with the help of Interpol.
“After Ziaur Rehman’s arrest by the Interpol from Dubai last week, Abid decided to secretly come to Pakistan and arrange for his bail-before-arrest,” said a police source.
A police official said that Zia would be repatriated to Pakistan by Interpol sometime next week.
Back to square one?
A police official close to the investigation of the case said it was too early to say how much the two suspects knew about Bhatti’s murder.
Given the circumstances under which they were declared suspects, the investigator was not too optimistic that the suspects would know much about the incident.
He feared the investigations would have to be restarted if the two suspects are freed by the court.
“My biggest fear is that we will be standing nowhere if the suspects are freed by the court because we do not have substantial evidence against them,” said the official.
Zia and Malik were identified as possible suspects in Bhatti’s murder by one, pastor Hafiz Nazar, who was also suspected of being involved in the murder.
Nazar was arrested after the police intercepted phone calls he made to a minorities’ member of the Punjab Assembly from Sargodha, during which he spoke about Bhatti’s murder.
However, on June 25, 2011, a trial court released Nazar, after the police could not gather any evidence against him.
ADDITIONAL INPUT BY UMER NANGIANA FROM ISLAMABAD
Published in The Express Tribune, February 15th, 2012.