KARACHI: With the next hearing in the Parveen Rehman murder case set for March 16 in the Supreme Court, advocate in the case Faisal Siddiqi has said “criminal negligence of the Sindh government” in the case is the reason for moving the case to the superior judiciary.

He was speaking at a meeting organised at the Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) House on Sunday to observe the third death anniversary of Orangi Pilot Project director Parveen Rehman, who was shot dead on March 13, 2013 in Pirabad while returning from her office in Qasba Colony in Orangi Town.

The meeting was moderated by chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan Zohra Yusuf and the speakers included executive director of the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research Karamat Ali, HRCP secretary general I. A. Rehman and Mr Faisal Siddiqi.

While I. A. Rehman and Karamat Ali focused on injustice, Mr Siddiqi pointed out details of the case.

Narrating the sequence of events after Rehman’s murder, Advocate Siddiqi said it was interesting how the city’s top police official appeared on the television the very next day of the murder to announce that the murderer had been caught and killed. The case was closed soon after that.

He said he believed that the upper cadre of the police was involved in damaging the case and that was why he decided to move the Supreme Court instead of the high court.

A petition to open the Parveen Rehman murder case was filed in the SC in July, 2013. Tassaduq Hussain Jillani, the then Chief Justice of the SC, eventually accepted the petition for hearing in January 2014.

“What we have seen so far is that the country’s top judges who had never met Rehman took keen interest in seeing her case through. This is what motivates and keeps us going,” he added.

However, the petitioners and family of the late OPP director were constantly receiving threats. As Mr Siddiqi narrated, when the SC called the inspector general of police to update the court on the investigation, the police in Karachi advised the OPP office-bearers to withdraw the case, which Mr Siddiqi added “hinted at their involvement”.

The SC eventually ordered a one-member judicial commission whose proceedings were held under immense pressure.

The judge conducting the inquiry was threatened, Mr Siddiqi added, and was advised to not to visit the site of the murder or the OPP director’s office.

“The judge holding the inquiry wrote a very clear-cut report, which states that the Qari Bilal encounter was a lie and so was the statement that he killed Parveen Rehman,” he added.

The inquiry judge recommended that the investigation of the case was broadened by including areas such as Baldia, Bin Qasim, Gadap and Keamari rather than focusing on Orangi and Manghopir alone.

He had suggested that the case be handled by an efficient, independent and honest police officer. The case was then moved to the antiterrorism court on the directives of the Supreme Court.

Then, in June 2014, the SC ordered formation of a Joint Investigation Team (JIT), who met the members of the OPP and discussed with them the documentation of land and maps Parveen Rehman was working on.

A senior officer associated with the JIT spoke to Mr Siddiqi at the time.

“He told me that he is under immense pressure and is being followed. His phones are being tapped and attempts are being made to subvert his investigation,” Mr Siddiqi added.

During this time, the police requested an in camera hearing. The SC asked them to submit their report in a sealed envelope. The police then came up saying that a man killed in an encounter near Kati Pahari, named Bhalu, was the killer. The statement was rejected by the SC and they were asked to come up with solid evidence.

An important turn came in the case in March 2015 when a man named Pappu Kashmiri arrested in Mansehra was produced before the ATC.

The police were given his remand till June. Mr Siddiqi added that Pappu Kashmiri gave names of two people — Zakaria and Raheem Swati. He said that Raheem Swati was the key person, who if arrested, would take the case in a new direction.

Mr Siddiqi added that there could be two motives: one fact which could not be ruled out was that Raheem Swati had conflict with the OPP in the past.

“Second, the police are covering up the murder case, which goes to the higher level of the hierarchy meaning there is a vested interest. But these things cannot come to the fore, unless immediate culprits are arrested,” he added.

“The case is dependent on the arrests of immediate culprits. This is the result of the Sindh government’s criminal negligence. If these culprits were arrested earlier, the case would not have been pending for three years,” Mr Siddiqi said.

Speaking further, he said: “This is not a case that cannot be solved. There’s no direct involvement of the state or a political party, rather a small group of greedy men.”

He also said that the entire police department was not corrupt, but there were criminal elements within the police who complicated high-profile murder cases such as this one and an earlier example was of the Manu Bheel case.

He said in the 1996 Manu Bheel case everything, from the evidence to the judicial confessions, was present and yet the case did not go anywhere. “It shows that if the police want to subvert a case, it most definitely does. It is not difficult for them at all,” he added.

But in the Rehman case, the next SC hearing was a hope which the late OPP director’s family and friends were looking forward to, he concluded.

Published in Dawn, March 14th, 2016