Even four days after the police recovered ancient Gandhara civilisation relics, the law enforcers haven’t been able to track down the alleged smugglers.
The police had earlier named two brothers Asif and Atif Butt, the truck’s owners, as the prime suspects in the antiquities’ smuggling case, but their whereabouts are still unknown. Instead, the police have taken into custody their elder brother, whose name is not even mentioned in the FIR. The move reeks of the police’s traditional method to force the absconders to give in by picking up their family members.
On July 6, the Awami Colony police had seized a large number of Buddhist artefacts dating back to the third century from a trailer-mounted container in Landhi.
The truck, said to be en route to Sialkot, was impounded and its driver and cleaner arrested. Later, the police registered a case against them and the container owners in the antiquities’ smuggling case.
The police launched several raids to arrest the two brothers but failed.
On Tuesday, the police officials admitted that Tahir Qayyum Butt was picked up to force the absconding suspects to surrender.
According to the police, the suspects’ elder brother was rounded up in a raid in Journalists Colony, Gulshan-e-Iqbal. They said that they had no other option except to detain some family member of the prime suspects. The police cannot investigate the case until the suspects are arrested and their statements recorded.
Talking with The Express Tribune, SP Latif Siddiqui acknowledged that Tahir was not nominated in the case, but was detained for “questioning”.
“We have only arrested him, but his name will be added in the FIR if he is found involved [in the case],” he said. “I promise if he is innocent he will be released.”
The driver and cleaner of the trailer are in police custody until July 11; however, some reports suggest that the container owners have taken bail-before-arrest orders from court, and the police may not be able to arrest them.
Atif Butt told The Express Tribune that Tahir, his eldest brother, was picked up by the police two days ago and has been in illegal detention since. He said that he and Asif are transporters while Tahir has no links with the transportation business even. “Without proper investigation, the police nominated us in the case and defamed us. Now they have arrested our elder brother to blackmail us,” he said.
Atif said that the police recovered some more ancient artefacts from a warehouse in Korangi the next day, but nobody was arrested from there. “Why don’t they arrest the warehouse owner and his employees,” he said. “They should be arrested first if the police want to investigate the case as we are only transporters.”
On being asked why he had not surrendered, the truck owner said that he and his brother had not approached the police as they were busy in getting bail before arrest. “[Otherwise], the police would have arrested us without listening to anything and taken false credit,” he said. “Thank God, we are only four brothers or the police may have arrested every one of us and declared us smugglers.”
Atif further said that he will hold a press conference on Wednesday accompanied by the members of a transporter association.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 11th, 2012.
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