KARACHI: While rights activists, teachers and students called the death of Prof Dr Hasan Zafar Arif a “murder” and asked the chief justice of Pakistan on Tuesday to take notice of it, police investigators remained clueless about the mystery that shrouded the death of the Harvard-educated man, who was also a main leader of the Altaf Hussain-led Muttahida Qaumi Movement-London.
On Jan 14, the body of Prof Arif, 75, was found in the rear seat of his car in Ilyas Goth, near the seashore in the Ibrahim Hyderi area.
Apart from leaders of the different factions of the MQM which expressed their shock over his mysterious “death”, Pakistan Peoples Party chairman Bilawal Bhutt-Zardari tweeted that he was “deeply disturbed by the murder” of Prof Arif and “there needs to be a complete investigation”.
Soon after his tweet, the Sindh government appointed DIG-East Sultan Ali Khowaja as inquiry officer to conduct a probe into Prof Arif’s death.
DIG Khowaja said on Tuesday that he was waiting for the chemical examiner’s report to reach any conclusion about the mystery behind Prof Arif’s death, saying the medico-legal reports of the autopsy suggested that it was a natural death.
Police insist the MQM-London leader died of natural causes
But rights activists, teachers and students did not believe that Prof Arif died of natural causes. They gathered outside the Karachi Press Club on Tuesday and staged a demonstration against his “murder”, terming it the murder of humanity.
The protesters were holding up placards and banners inscribed with slogans demanding ‘justice’ for the late philosopher.
Before the protest, Asad Iqbal Butt of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and other activists said at a press conference that the truth was being hidden in the autopsy report as Prof Arif was tortured.
Demanding an investigation so that facts came into light, Mr Butt requested the chief justice of Pakistan to take cognizance of the incident and bring those involved to justice.
He said Prof Arif was a political activist and a revered professor of Karachi University who commanded respect of friends and foes alike despite having ideological differences.
He said he was the first Karachi coordinator of the HRCP during former military dictator Gen Ziaul Haq’s regime.
Mr Butt said the late professor was an agitator to the core who lost his job in KU soon after he was elected president of the Karachi University Teachers Society because he vocally opposed Zia’s military regime.
“And,” he added, “Dr Arif was arrested merely for listening to a hateful speech in October 2016 and not making one himself.”
He said in the past few months a trend to target the dissenting voices was on the rise in which activists, students and others were being targeted.
He said enforced disappearances were immensely damaging the very fabric of society that could even lead to its disintegration. “This atmosphere of fear and terror should end.”
Classical dancer and activist Sheema Kirmani said she was disappointed that the culture of dissent was being murdered when people having diverse views deviating from the ‘acceptable narrative’ were being ‘targeted and eliminated’.
However, the police authorities apparently so far have been ruling out all possibilities of his murder and came up with different arguments to prove their points.
“Currently, nothing emerged conclusive which can suggest anything about his unnatural death,” DIG Khowaja told reporters at his office. “Prof Arif’s body was found in his own car. His family said that he didn’t return home a night before his death but strangely he was not reported missing by them. The autopsy report did not show any sign of torture or signs of unnatural death.”
The DIG said that his car was also examined and “nothing was found during that examination which can lead us to any suspicion”.
He said all his belongings, including medicines, Rs17,350 and a bottle of water, were intact in the car.
However, there was no answer that how Prof Arif reached a desolated coastal neighbourhood instead of his Defence residence and that how his body was found in the rear seat.
But the DIG lamented that after the incident “a propaganda campaign was launched on social media with different pictures of Prof Arif which were taken after the autopsy”.
“During that medical process [autopsy], multiple wounds appear on the body which were shown on social media as marks of torture.”
Prof Arif was in Oct 2016 taken into custody by Rangers personnel from outside the KPC, where he was due to address a press conference with other leaders of the MQM-London. He was booked for allegedly facilitating and listening to a controversial speech of MQM founder Altaf Hussain. In April 2017, he was released from the Karachi central prison after an antiterrorism court issued his release order.
Published in Dawn, January 17th, 2018