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Doctor was killed by extremists over liberal views

Updated May 12, 2014
— File photo
— File photo

GUJRAT: A senior doctor, who was killed at his clinic in Jalalpur Jattan city on August 7 last year, was not a victim of extortionists but of the alleged militants belonging to banned outfits for his liberal views.

A reliable source in a law enforcement agency told Dawn that three militants, recently arrested in connection with the target killing incidents in Gujrat, had revealed during interrogation that Dr Attaur Rehman, a known medical practitioner of Jalalpur Jattan, had also been a victim of their target killing besides many others last year.

The law enforcement agency had arrested the suspects in a kidnap-for-ransom case. During investigation, they revealed their involvement in target killing of seven people, including Professor Shabbir Shah of the University of Gujrat (UoG), a religious figure Fazeelat Shah alias Phul Shah in Jassoki area of Kunjah police and a policeman Sarfraz. They had also attacked a Sara-i-Alamgir-based businessman belonging to Ahmadi community who sustained bullet injuries but survived two attacks on him.

Though officials are terming the arrests as a major breakthrough in the investigation of target killing cases, the revelation of Dr Attaur Rehman being targeted by the banned outfit had really shocked them as they had earlier considered involvement of extortionists in the incident.

The militants told investigators that they had killed the doctor due to his liberal views he used to express publicly at his clinic and it was a medical representative of a pharmaceutical company who had connived with the suspects, telling them that the doctor often gave, what they termed, provocative remarks about religion and the information had been the sole reason for targeting him.

The revelations came as the investigators were probing the suspects in a kidnap-for-ransom case. All the three arrested suspects, including two real brothers Abrarul Haq and Anwarul Haq, residents of Dedhar village of Gujrat Sadar police precincts and Asif Maqsood of Jhandewal village, Gujrat, were arrested by a joint raiding team of Jhelum and Gujrat police a few weeks back in a case of kidnap-for-ransom of Haji Iqbal, a British national. They also confessed to being involved in four other major incidents of target killing in Gujrat district during the later half of 2013.

Earlier, the then Gujrat DPO Ali Nasir Rizvi had claimed the arrest of seven extortionists of a gang of Jalapur Jattan during a news conference on August 28, three weeks after the killing of the doctor, saying the extortionists had killed the doctor for extortion. Police had framed charges against seven suspects for anti-terrorism court of Gujranwala where the trial of alleged gangsters continued despite repeated statements of the complainants in their favour.

A police official said the heirs to Dr Rehman had formally asked the court in writing that the seven alleged extortionists were not his killers. The suspects’ release was likely after the legal formalities.

Police sources said DPO Rizvi, under pressure from the agitating medical fraternity of Gujrat chapter of the Pakistan Medical Association, had declared the seven alleged gangsters as killers of Dr Rehman just to pacify the concerned voices in Gujrat over the rise in extortion incidents.

It was also revealed that DPO Rizvi himself had also been a prime target of the arrested terrorists for belonging to the Shia community. The security of Mr Rizvi had been higher than routine security of a DPO and two Elite Force vehicles used to move with him instead of one mobile van while a concrete security wall had also been constructed outside his house.

The three alleged killers of Dr Attaur Rehman had been in Jhelum police custody for their involvement in abduction of Haji Iqbal who was released by them after payment of Rs3.5 million ransom.

DPO Jhelum Afzal Mehmood Butt confirmed to Dawn that the arrested suspects had confessed to killing of Dr Rehman and they had been on physical remand of six days until May 15 in a kidnapping case of Haji Iqbal. Efforts were being made to bring Iqbal back to Pakistan to pursue the legal formalities of the case, he added.

DPO Gujrat Rai Ijaz said three arrested militants were yet to be brought to Gujrat from Jhelum for legal proceedings in target killing cases. Two more suspects, Qari Afzal and Zakriya Khalid, of the same network are already in custody of Gujrat police on physical remand whereas the law enforcing agencies had been making efforts to arrest the remaining members of the gang.