What was earlier thought to be part of an anti-corruption drive turned out to be an anti-terror swoop when the Rangers levelled terror-financing charges against Dr Asim Hussain while presenting him before an anti-terrorism court (ATC) on Thursday.
Officials of the paramilitary force informed the Karachi ATC-III that they had taken Dr Asim into preventive custody for 90 days on charges of embezzlement and using misappropriated funds in terrorist acts.
Dr Asim – who is currently serving as the chairman of the Higher Education Council (HEC) in Sindh and is a close confidante of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari – was picked up from his office a day earlier by law enforcers clad in plain clothes. The arrest, at the time, was thought to be part of an anti-graft campaign which has already seen several individuals associated with PPP arrested on corruption charges. However, no government agency claimed responsibility for the arrest all throughout Wednesday.
The protocol used by the Rangers while presenting Dr Asim before the ATC differed starkly from the one used for other anti-terror suspects in the past. The HEC Sindh chairman was brought to the court premises in a convoy of three white SUVs. He appeared composed and well dressed as he stepped out of the vehicle and was allowed to walk into the courtroom of his own volition; he was neither handcuffed or blindfolded, the normal practice for presenting terror suspects. Dr Asim was escorted by a major-ranked paramilitary official and a number of other Rangers’ personnel as he waited outside the chamber of ATC judge Saleem Raza Baloch, for his turn. His attorney, Barrister Abid Zuberi, had already arrived there for him.
The Rangers and their legal team took Dr Asim inside the judge’s office as the defence lawyers followed them. The hearing lasted for a couple of minutes, during which, according to an informed source, the law enforcers informed the judge that they were detaining Dr Asim for three-months on charges of terrorism.
A three-page set of documents, consisting of Dr Asim’s detention order signed by the brigadier-ranked sector commander of the Rangers’ Abdullah Shah Ghazi wing and jail warrants, was submitted to the court.
The detention order read that the suspect was apprehended from within the remits of Boat Basin police upon receiving ‘credible information’ of his involvement in offences pertaining to misappropriation of funds for enhancing and supporting terrorist activities, and misusing his authority for other criminal links. He was grilled under the Section 11EEEE of the Anti-Terrorism Act which allows armed forces and civil armed forces to detain a person suspected of involvement in terrorism for three months.
According to papers submitted to the court, Dr Asim will be placed inside the Mitha Ram Hostel which was recently converted into a Rangers sub-jail.
When they came out of the judge’s chamber, Dr Asim asked one of his associates about his family. They had left for the high court an hour before his arrival, he was told. The HEC Sindh chairman’s family moved an application in the court to obtain permission for a meeting with him.
Just moments later, Dr Asim was taken back in the same fashion as he was brought in.
Moving Asim to hospital: plea turned down
As Dr Asim was being presented by the Rangers before the ATC, the Sindh High Court (SHC) turned down his family’s request to move him to a hospital for medical treatment.
SHC Chief justice Faisal Arab, however, directed the director-general of Sindh Rangers to provide medical facilities to the HEC Sindh chairman. He converted the application, filed by Dr Asim’s wife Dr Zarina Hussain, into a petition and referred the matter to a division bench, headed by Justice Sajjad Ali Shah,.
Later, the applicant with her counsel Abid S Zuberi appeared before the court and said that Dr Asim was suffering from a serious ailment and required medical attention in hospital.
Sources said that SHC’s bench heard the matter in chamber.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 28th, 2015.