ISLAMABAD: In a press conference on Tuesday, Federal Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan claimed that the parents of Umair, the seven-year-old murdered by Shafqat Hussain, were in hiding in Karachi after having been threatened to withdraw the case against Shafqat.
Nisar emphasised the need and the desire of the government to provide justice to the aggrieved party in the case, and said Hussain's hanging had been delayed so that investigations into the matter of his age could be undertaken.
He said "we are cognisant of the fact that where we give justice to Shafqat, we have to provide justice to the child's parents too".
Hussain's execution had been delayed after it had been reported that he was underage at the time of the crime. Nisar said the interior ministry, in order to get at the truth, decided to delay the hanging until the issue was resolved.
While the initial summary moved by the interior ministry had suspended Shafqat Hussain's hanging for 72 hours, a second summary asking for a month's delay was moved so that Hussain's age could be investigated adequately.
Nisar also said that despite many statements made by the civil society and media, until the evening of March 19, the interior ministry had not been provided any report disputing Shafqat Hussain's age. He said media houses claimed to have sent the ministry documents showing proof of age, but they were not verifiable.
He went on to say that providing proof, which is integral to the nature of the case, is not the responsibility of the government, but that of the accused.
"At this time, what is on record is that when he went to jail, the jail doctor wrote his age as 25 years, and the jail authorities recorded it as being 23 years."
He also said that these records had not been contested at any point during the course of trial.
"This hasn’t been contested on any level – every time someone goes to jail, their age gets written down. When the case went to trial in court, his age was never brought up. And this is also a wrong statement that he was given a public defender. He had a private lawyer."
"If you have a certificate, bring it to the attention of the interior ministry, bring it to the attention of the committee formed by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA)," Nisar said.
Exit Control List
Nisar also touched upon the matter of the Exit Control List (ECL), saying that he had not allowed his private opinions to influence the addition or removal of a single person on the ECL during his time as minister.
The minister emphasised the unacceptability of keeping people on the ECL for unreasonable periods of time extending up to 30 years. According to Nisar, the list contains 8,500 people currently, but will be cut down once a time limit of three years on the ECL is imposed.
"These investigation agencies put names on the ECL and keep cases going for years at a stretch. I won’t allow it. In the coming weeks, I will put forward a new ECL policy."
Nisar claimed only those who have committed heinous crimes, or are being investigated by the National Accountability Bureau and the FIA will be placed on the list.
Investigation into Saulat Mirza confession video
Speaking about the rationale behind delaying the hanging of Saulat Mirza, the interior minister said once Mirza's confession video came forth, local investigation agencies and security forces were of the view that this speech should be investigated.
As a result of this view, a summary was moved to delay his execution for 72 hours, after which an extension of 90 days was sought in order to investigate the matter thoroughly.
The interior ministry had, after this, notified the Prime Minister House that the new date of Mirza's execution would be April 1.
"After this, the President, with the advice of the Prime Minister, would decide whether the hanging date should be further extended for 90 days, 60 days, a month or not at all," he said.
Investigation into mafia and corruption of government officials
Nisar referred to the exchange of offenders agreement with Britain and revealed that in 2011, four prisoners who came to Pakistan were mysteriously released just a few days after their arrival in the country ─ after which the agreement had been suspended.
The prisoners who had sentences ranging from 18 years to 25 years were convicted for murder and drug-related charges. Of the four, two had managed to leave the country. After Nisar ordered an investigation into the matter, they were found with the help of Interpol and the FIA and are currently jailed in Dubai and Ecuador.
Nisar said the government had taken the first steps towards extradition and called it a troubling matter due to which Pakistan’s international image was suffering.
The two convicts who remained in Pakistan after their release have also been tracked down and arrested, and are now additionally being charged with fraud and punished in accordance with Pakistani law.
The interior minister has, for the time being, suspended all international exchange of offenders agreements.
He also spoke of a case where nine people imprisoned for drug-related offences were brought to Pakistan without any papers or approval from the interior ministry.
"There is some mafia that wanted them to come here ─ and this way they become free citizens in Pakistan as they were before," the minister said. He also claimed they were found only through a stroke of luck, and said "I want them to be deported immediately but some legal procedure must be followed."
He admitted that officials in the ministry and the FIA were under suspicion and will be questioned, and claimed that anyone who is found to be part of the mafia will be punished and jailed in accordance with the law.
"Whoever is a part of this will be punished in accordance with the law. Those responsible will not be sitting in ministries ─ they should be sitting in jail."
"This mafia is not just limited to the Ministry of the Interior and is very spread out. Any ministry or deptartment, even in the FIA which is a part of the mafia will be brought to task."
A public inquiry will be conducted and "within seven to ten days, the findings will become public and everyone who is responsible will be taken to task. Some people have already had action taken against them," Nisar said.
Clarification regarding meeting with British High Commissioner
Nisar also shed light on his meeting with British High Commissioner Philip Barton.
"I spoke only of that which is public knowledge and spoke to the British ambassador ... that there was an FIR registered against them [the MQM] for threatening the Rangers, and secondly, a few points from his [Altaf Hussain's] speech."
Nisar also said that if any action was taken on the matter, it would be discussed publicly.
Following Nisar's press conference, MQM leader Haider Rizvi also held a press conference during which he requested the interior minister to further clarify the subject of his meeting with British High Commissioner Philip Barton.
He said Nisar should also refute media reports that paint the MQM and its chief, Altaf Hussain, as criminals.