ISLAMABAD: In what can best be seen as a return to strong-arm tactics of the Punjab government, two senior officials of the Punjab Police were forcibly picked up in midnight raids on their homes after it transpired that both of them had distanced themselves from an alleged intelligence report that warned of an attack on the Lahore High Court Chief Justice, Khwaja Muhammad Sharif.
Additional IG Special Branch, Colonel (retd) Ehsanur Rehman and his deputy, Shahid Mahmood, were picked up from their residences and detained in an unspecified location where they were allegedly manhandled, say sources.
Highly-placed officials say that it was this treatment that forced the two to retract their earlier statements to the FIA in which they had stated that they had no knowledge of any report into the plot to kill the Lahore High Court chief justice. Instead, they went ahead and said they had authored the report.
Sources said that during the two-day detention in a safe house of the Punjab police, both the Special Branch officers were put under pressure to make them fall in line. One source even claimed that Colonel Ehsan and Shahid Mahmood were manhandled during their custody to make them own the information report before the FIA inquiry commission.
After initial resistance, both of them gave new statements in which they confirmed they had dispatched such a report to CM Punjab Mian Shabaz Sharif and to PML-N chief, Mian Nawaz Sharif. Sources have now confirmed that Colonel Ehsan, a former operative of the ISI, was posted at the Attock Fort during the detention of the Sharif brothers where he allowed them a number of concessions and favours. After the PML-N came to power, Ehsan cashed in on these favours and was appointed to the lucrative position of AIG Punjab Special Branch.
Director FIA Zafar Ahmed Qureshi, a respected officer, who was appointed to inquire into the alleged plot to kill the CJ of the Lahore High Court, in his 499-page report submitted to the Chief Justice of Pakistan on November 2, concluded that there was no evidence available to establish the authenticity of the information report issued by the Punjab government into the alleged murder plot.
Zafar Qureshi had reached this conclusion after interviewing and investigating 41 officials concerned. None of them owned the report, which was deliberately leaked to the media to create a sensation and embarrass the federal government.
Giving details as to how even two top guns of the Special Branch Punjab were subjected to serious physical pressure to make them own the report, sources claimed that even the Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhary was informed about the “abduction” of these two senior officers — Col Ehsan and Shahid Mahmood–in his chamber on September 19.
The CJ had called a high level meeting of government officials to discuss the report. FIA director Zafar Ahmed Qureshi who had accompanied Secretary Interior in this meeting, had brought to the notice of the CJ that two of the key witnesses, who had already recorded their statement before him and had denied sending any report to government, were forcibly picked up from their houses after police raids.
The sources said that the CJ had got angry with IG Punjab Tariq Saleem Dogar as to why had his officers not arrested Babar Sindhu, who in the news item was tipped as the ringleader of the murder plot.
Colonel Ehsan had personally approached FIA Director Zafar Ahmad Qureshi to record his statement and told him that he was facing threats, as some top guns of the Punjab government were trying to frame him, sources said. Ehsan was so frightened that he went to the official residence of Zafar Qureshi at 2 am to record his statement and disowned sending any such report to government.
As he was recording his statement, his wife made a telephone call on his mobile and in a distraught state, she told her husband that the Punjab police had raided their house and they were asking about his whereabouts. Her wife told him that policemen had even misbehaved with her and wanted to get him “at all costs.”
Col Ehsan rushed to his house from where he was taken into custody by the Punjab police. He remained in custody till he agreed give a fresh statement owning the report.
DIG Mushtaq Sukhera and a CIA SP were said to have put Colonel Ehsan and Shahid Mahmood under pressure during these two days of custody and all sorts of torture methods were used, it is alleged.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 29th, 2010.