Probe teams in game of musical chairs

Published: September 23, 2013

Probe teams in game of musical chairs. In three weeks, the police have changed three investigation teams. PHOTO: FILE

ISLAMABAD: 

It has been twenty days since the city police registered a murder case. The arrest of the suspect aside, the police were yet to finalise the investigation officer to conduct an initial inquiry into the murder charges.

In three weeks, the police have changed three investigation teams. The last one was dissolved two days ago after at least two officials of the five-member investigation team refused to probe the suspect.

Why are the police playing delaying tactics? Why are the officers reluctant to take up the case for investigation? The answer is simple. The suspect is no ordinary man. The accused: former president and army chief, General Pervez Musharraf — who ruled Pakistan for nine years.

Detained at his Chak Shahzad farmhouse in the Akbar Bugti murder case and facing three other criminal cases, Musharraf was booked for the alleged murder of deputy cleric of the controversial Lal Masjid (red mosque) Ghazi Abdur Rashid early this month.

The case was registered on the complaint of the cleric’s son Haroonur Rashid and on the orders of the Islamabad High Court.

The police had to begin an inquiry into the allegations to determine their authenticity before proceeding with the murder probe and arrest of the suspect immediately after the registration of the First Information Report.

But both the police and complainant have been playing a game of investigation teams with each other since then. So far, not a single police officer could go and probe the suspect. At first, the investigation was given to a junior officer. Before he could start work on the case, the complainant raised an objection on giving the inquiry of a high profile case to a very junior officer.

The Inspector-General of the capital police (IGP) happily accepted Rashid’s application to constitute a team to probe the suspect. This took a few days. The top cop came up with a police team comprising two senior officers who were retired army officers. Here again, the complainant refused to accept the team. Now, he maintained that the two retired army officers, the Superintendents of Police (SPs) from city zone and Crime Investigation Department, could be biased towards the former military strongman.

The police chief was made to dissolve the investigation team. After this, the complainant himself gave names for the police officers he wanted on the investigation team to probe Musharraf.

Among others, the two officers they recommended to the police chief were SP (Saddar) Jameel Hashmi and Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG) Headquarters Khalid Khattak. Interestingly, the police chief gave into the complainant’s demand and constituted a new five-member team including all the officers Rashid wanted.

Again, the team had to be dissolved. Its head, DIG Khattak, and SP Hashmi recused themselves from probing Musharraf. The police chief accepted their excuses and the probe team once again melted even before it could take its first step.

The complainant was no longer interested in any more investigation teams. He intended to approach the court once again with the complaint that ‘certain forces’ were pressuring him and the police officers to pull out of the investigation.

Police officials, however, said the two senior officers pulled out of the team on personal grounds. They were not being pressured. Rashid refused to accept any justifications by the police. He would plead before the court to summon IGP, secretary interior and ISI director-general. This would mean buying more time for the police.

While the complainant was equally responsible for the delay in the probe, it was the police chief’s responsibility to take the lead and handle the probe in his own way instead of playing into the hands of the complainant. Whether or not the murder allegations have any grounds, it was the police’s responsibility to go by the legal route which they have so far failed to do.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 23rd, 2013.

More in Pakistan