The Sabeen Mahmud murder case has hit a major snag after its prime witness was shot dead on Monday night. In what was likely to be an open-and-shut case, tilted strongly in favour of the prosecution courtesy of the witness' testimony, the investigators will now have to rethink their strategy and find other evidence to prove their case.
The witness in question was Mahmud's driver, Ghulam Abbas, who was present in the car with her when she was murdered. For now, police investigators strongly believe his murder is linked to Mahmud's case.
Ghulam Abbas, who worked part-time as a driver for Mahmud, was also an employee of the anti-corruption department. He was shot dead outside his residence in Korangi, within the limits of Ibrahim Hyderi police station on Monday night.
Read: A step ahead: Sabeen’s mother takes the torch forward
Sabeen Mahmud, the director and founder of The Second Floor (T2F) café, was shot dead by gunmen in the upscale Defence Housing Authority neighbourhood of the metropolis. At the time, she along with her mother and Abbas, was returning home after hosting a seminar on the troubled province of Balochistan, featuring Mama Qadeer, the chairperson of the Voice for Missing Baloch. Her car was attacked near the Defence Central Library traffic signal on April 25.
Later, Saad Aziz, one of the suspects arrested for his involvement in the Safoora Goth bus carnage, had revealed that he and his companions had killed Mahmud for holding a Valentine's Day rally and for her campaign against Lal Masjid cleric Maulana Abdul Aziz. The suspect had admitted that that his friend was riding the motorcycle and he had been sitting behind and had shot her.
"We had two prime witnesses, including Ghulam Abbas, in Mahmud's murder case," said an officer privy to the investigation, while speaking to The Express Tribune. "Abbas had identified Saad Aziz during an identification parade before a magistrate. The other witness only recorded their statement," he said.
The officer said that they were now looking for another witness after Ghulam Abbas was killed as he was the prime witness in the case. The police will have to hold an identification parade before the magistrate again. "The case will not be hurt because we have an alternate for Abbas, but we are worried that the other witness will fail to identify Mahmud's killers," explained the officer.
On the other hand, police officials investigating Abbas's killing told The Express Tribune that he had been meeting two people for the past couple of days. He was speaking to the same people outside his house when a third person joined them. It was this newcomer who shot and killed Abbas after an argument.
Police officials have not been able to find any major evidence with regards to Abbas' murder as the investigation is in its preliminary stage. "We have not found any evidence to suggest that Abbas was killed over personal enmity," Ibrahim Hyderi DSP Rao Iqbal told The Express Tribune. They suspect his murder could be connected to Mahmud's case.
Meanwhile, Abbas' family has been keeping a distance from the police investigators and the media. The police are looking to check the call records of Abbas' phone in an attempt to ascertain the identity of the people he had been meeting for the last two days. They are also looking for eye-witnesses, but so far no one has been willing to come forward. "Only Abbas's wife and children were home at the time of his killing," explained DSP Iqbal. "We are hopeful that someone will come forward to testify against the assailants after the passage of some time."
Published in The Express Tribune, September 9th, 2015.