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KARACHI/LAHORE/SAHIWAL: Police on Sunday claimed to have arrested in Mandi Bahauddin the prime suspect in attacking women with a sharp object, probably scalpel, in Karachi in a joint operation conducted by Sahiwal and Karachi police.

Official sources said suspect Waseem, 27, a native of Chichawatni, in Sahiwal district, was on the run to avoid his arrest.

Inspector General of Punjab Police Arif Nawaz confirmed the arrest but said more details about the suspect would be shared with the media once investigation was completed.

Karachi DIG says case still open to other potential suspects

“Right now it will be premature to say anything about the suspect,” Mr Nawaz said.

The raid was conducted on the disclosures of Mohammad Shahzad, who was arrested by Karachi police on Thursday and was remanded in police custody for seven days by an anti-terrorism court.

Shahzad used to work at a factory in the Landhi area of Karachi and was stated to be a friend of the suspect. He reportedly provided cover to Waseem, who came to Karachi about a month ago. The police said Waseem had been missing from his native village 86/6-R for the last six months.

Shahzad told the police that Waseem was suffering from some psychological disorder and the media coverage of his acts gave him solace.

Besides the alleged facilitator, the police had detained 38 suspects for questioning during raids and search operations, said Karachi-East SSP Dr Samiullah Soomro.

“One or two detained persons were paramedics as the suspect used a scalpel, which is used in medical surgeries, to attack women. However, all the 38 detained suspects were released as they were found innocent,” he added.

“Waseem, the main culprit, has been arrested with the help of Sahiwal police,” said Karachi-East DIG Sultan Ali Khowaja.

“He is being shifted to Karachi for further investigation after legal formalities,” concluded a brief statement issued by the DIG office.

However, Mr Khowaja, appointed a focal person for the media by Sindh IG A.D. Khowaja, told Dawn that it was yet to be verified if Waseem was actually involved in the crime.

“We are still investigation the case and it is open to other potential suspects as well,” the DIG added.

Another police officer, who did not want to be named, told Dawn that the criminal was taken into custody through effective communication between Sindh and Punjab police.

“Leads generated from Karachi and coordination with Punjab police helped in the breakthrough,” said the officer.

In his initial statement, Waseem rejected the charge and denied visiting Karachi. “I have no animosity with any woman,” a police official quoted him as having said.

Similar nature of crime

It had come to the police’s knowledge that similar attacks had been carried out against women in Punjab. It had also surfaced that Waseem was captured by Sahiwal police in 2016 at Azadi Chowk with his two friends, Izhar and Nazakat. He was sent to the Central Prison in 11 cases but was released on bail after eight months.

After the Karachi attacks, a similar incident occurred in Lahore’s Chuhng area when a bike-rider allegedly stabbed and injured a woman a few days ago. There were lots of similarities found between the recent knife attacks on women in Karachi and those carried out by the suspect in 2014-15 in Chichawatni and Sahiwal which made the police to think about his involvement.

Sindh IG A.D. Khowaja, who chaired a meeting to review progress of the ‘knife’ attacks on women, formed two separate teams led by DIG-East Sultan Ali Khowaja and DIG-CIA Saqib Ismail Memon to ensure arrest of the suspect(s) with the help of modern technology and other law enforcement agencies.

Karachi police’s two SSPs (investigation), namely Zulfiqar Mahar and Haider Raza, had stayed in Lahore and Sahiwal for several days in order to keep an eye on the movement of the suspect.

A joint police team interrogated his father, two sisters and a brother during the last two weeks.

Dr Soomro recalled that the first attack on a woman was reported to the police on Sept 25. Since then, 13 women of different ages have been injured by the attacker, according to reports/complaints received by different police stations such as Gulistan-i-Jauhar, Sharea Faisal, Aziz Bhatti, PIB Colony and Gulshan-i-Iqbal.

“The police have registered 10 FIRs about these incidents,” said the East SSP.

Published in Dawn, October 16th, 2017