ATC indicts Rao Anwar, four others in Naqeebullah murder case

Accused deny charges after which the court issued notices to witnesses for April 11

Our Correspondent March 25, 2019
Pictured from left to right, former SSP Malir Rao Anwar and Naqeebullah Mehsud. PHOTO: EXPRESS

KARACHI: An Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) indicted on Monday former Malir SSP Rao Anwar and four others in the murder cases of Naqeebullah Mehsud and three others - Sabir, Nazar Jan and Ishaq.

Former Malir SSP Rao Anwar, former DSP Qamar Ahmed Shaikh, former inspector Muhammad Yaseen, former ASI Supurd Khan and former head constable Khizer Hayat, who are on bail, appeared before the court. Jail authorities also produced 13 other accused before the court.

The court indicted Anwar and four others. The accused denied the charges and pleaded innocence after which the court issued notices to witnesses for April 11.

Naqeebullah, an aspiring model, was among four men killed in an allegedly staged police encounter carried out in January 2018 by Anwar and his team at Usman Khaskheli Goth on the outskirts of Karachi. Anwar claimed that Naqeebullah, Sabir, Nazar Jan, and Ishaq were Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militants.

Extrajudicial killings

A high-level inquiry committee comprising senior police officials, convened within days of the incident, had also concluded that the deceased had no ties with militants.

The inquiry team was headed by Additional Inspector General Police Counter-Terrorism Department (AIG CTD) Sanaullah Abbasi and included Director Inspector General Police (DIGP) East Zone Sultan Ali Khawaja and Director Inspector General Police (DIGP) South Zone Azad Khan.

The team, citing eyewitness accounts, said that Naqeebullah was 'picked up' along with two other suspects - Hazrat Ali and Qasim - on January 3 by security personnel in civvies and taken to the Sachal Police Post before being moved to another location. They were illegally detained and tortured until January 6 when the eyewitnesses, Hazrat Ali and Qasim, were released while Naqeebullah remained in custody.

The eyewitnesses had told the inquiry panel that they came to know of Naqeebullah's death in an 'encounter' from media reports on January 17, as did his family. The latter challenged the claims made by Anwar that Naqeebullah was a 'terrorist'.

According to the report, a copy of which is available with The Express Tribune, the committee found no evidence of Naqeebullah's involvement in any terror activities.

The report had concluded that considering the suspect was moved to different locations until being killed on January 13, the encounter was prima facie fake.

Muhammad Yousuf, the brother of Maulvi Ishaq, one of the suspected militants killed by the police along with Naqeebullah, told the media that hailing from Bahawalpur, Ishaq used to teach at a religious seminary.

The third suspected militant killed in the encounter was Nazar Muhammad. His real name was Muhammad Sabi, he said, adding that Sabir was the nephew of Ishaq.

He said that Ishaq and Nazar were abducted by plainclothes personnel from their hometown along with six others in November 2016.

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Later, six others were released after at least eight months while Ishaq and Sabir remained in custody.

The inquiry team found no criminal record of both the people in any part of the country.

The case

The incident garnered outrage leading to countrywide protests. The Supreme Court of Pakistan took suo motu notice of the matter and summoned Anwar - who had gone underground.

On January 23, 2018, Anwar was caught by immigration officials at the Islamabad airport trying to board a Dubai-bound flight. However, the former cop, again, went missing after eluding law enforcement agencies.

He finally appeared before the apex court on March 21, 2018, and was arrested on the directives of former chief justice Mian Saqib Nisar.

Evidence tampering

On July 11, 2018, the ATC granted bail to Anwar against a surety of Rs1 million.  Four other accused in the case were also granted bail.

In a three-page statement submitted on February 8 before the Sindh High Court, IO Dr Rizwan Ahmad made some startling disclosures about developments in the case. He told the judges that the accused were 'highly influential, powerful, callous and cunning' and if they remained on bail, they would destroy or eliminate all evidences against them.

Substantiating his argument about the power and authority enjoyed by the main accused, Dr Rizwan revealed that they, before the case proceedings started, exercised their influence to pressurise the key eyewitness, Shahzad Jahangir, to take back his statement and later made him disappear.

The IO expressed the fear that all the witnesses could deviate from their statements if the bails of the accused were not annulled, adding that the accused could also force the witnesses to change their statements by terrifying them.

Dr Rizwan hence requested the court to annul the bails of former SSP Rao Anwar and others to enable the prosecution to reach the case to its logical conclusion.

Pointing to what he termed as irrefutable evidence against the accused based on their call detail records (CDR), the IO told the SHC that the presence of accused, Anar Khan, at the site of the incident was recorded from 1:55am till 3:34am. Meanwhile, the presence of ASI Khair Muhammad at the site of the incident was recorded at 2:15am.

The report further stated that constable Shakeel Feroz was a crucial link in the investigation of the case. Feroz, the report states, was a close aide of then SHO sub inspector Amanullah Marwat and had contacted ASI Gada Hussain 18 times between January 13, 2018 - the day before the incident - and January 18.

Dr Rizwan revealed that Feroz had changed his SIM card and mobile phones several times after the incident. Therefore, the report stated, all the acquired digital evidences pointed towards the planning and execution of the fake police encounter.

In jail

The accused in jail include sub-inspector Muhammad Anar Khan, ASI Kher Muhammad, constable Imran Kazmi, ASI Akbar Mallah, head constable Faisal Mehmood, constable Raees Abbas, ASI Yar Kaka, head constable Muhammad Iqbal, constable Arshad Ali, constable Ghulam Nazuk, constable Shafqat Ahmed, constable Shakeel Feroze and Abdul Ali.

On the run

A total of seven accused are absconding in the cases. They include inspector Amanullah Marwat, ASI Gada Hussain, head constable Mohsin Abbas, sub-inspector Sheikh Muhammad Shoaib alias Shoaib shooter, head constable Sadaqat Hussain Shah, police personnel Raja Shams Mukhtar, Rana Riaz Ahmed.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 26th, 2019.