KARACHI: Mystery surrounded the reported kidnapping and torching of a private university student, as police investigators on Friday were sceptical about his claim that he was set on fire before being released by some militants who had asked him during his two-day confinement to place a mysterious bag somewhere.
Haris, 22, was shifted to the burns centre of the Civil Hospital Karachi from an empty plot in DHA phase I where he said he had been left by the kidnappers late Thursday night. His condition was stated to be out of danger, as doctors confirmed that he sustained burn injuries on his hand and other parts of his body.
In his statement recorded by the Baloch Colony police, Haris said four persons travelling in a car kidnapped him when he came out of his university in Defence View on Feb 16. He was kept at an undisclosed location where the kidnappers asked him ‘to drop a bag at some place’ but he told them that he could not do that, said an official at the Baloch Colony police station.
“A chit has been found from him, containing threat of consequences if the military operation is not stopped against the militants,” said SSP South Tariq Dharejo. It did not carry name of any organisation, he said.
“We are investigating the case and have not yet arrived at any conclusion as to whether this act was perpetrated by militants or some personal matter was involved,” the officer added.
The police investigators, however, expressed serious doubts about the statement of the student.
“His statement appears to be fabricated,” said Raja Umer Khattab, official of the counterterrorism department investigating the case.
Elaborating, he said the student initially told the police that prior to his kidnapping, two youths had quarrelled with him when he used to go the varsity by foot from his home in Akhter Colony. Three days later, when his brother dropped him at the varsity on a motorbike, the student claimed that he forgot to bring his varsity card. He was returning home to pick his card when the kidnappers travelling in a car stopped and asked him about the quarrel. As he was about to narrate the story, they took him away, kept him at a place where they allegedly beat him up as he was not fulfilling their demand of putting the bag at some place.
The officer said that militants usually got their nefarious designs fulfilled by using ‘motivated people’, not those kidnapped at gunpoint. Then his claim that they left him alive by torching him in which he sustained minor injuries was also questionable, he said.
Mr Khattab said he also had doubts about the student’s claim that someone set him on fire.
Visiting the crime scene and talking to some witnesses the counterterrorism department officer said the place where the purported torching incident took place was a busy area, as it was the entry point between Defence and Mehmoodabad localities surrounded by houses. He said the student also claimed that the suspects after torching him fled by jumping the wall but it could not be corroborated by witnesses. He quoted two witnesses as saying that they were watching TV when they heard cries and saw the student in flames. He wondered why the suspects did not use a piece of cloth to gag him and tie up his hands and legs.
Besides, that the student had left his mobile phone home on the day of kidnapping was also unusual, the officer said.
Mr Khattab said there was contradiction between the statements of the boy and his father. The father told the investigators that when his son went missing, he brought picture of his son and showed the rickshaw drivers standing outside the university. One of them told the father he had dropped his son and a burka-clad girl at a restaurant in Khayaban-i-Sahar. The rickshaw driver could not be located immediately to ascertain the veracity of the claims of the student and his father, the officer said.
Meanwhile, the police registered an FIR (59/2015) on a complaint of the student against four unidentified suspects under Sections 365 (kidnapping or abducting with intent secretly), 342 (wrongful confinement), 324 (attempt to commit qatl-i-amd) and 34 (common intention) of the Pakistan Penal Code.
Published in Dawn, February 21st, 2015