Murder or ‘encounter’?

Published January 19, 2018

WAS young Naqeebullah Mehsud really the internal migrant he appeared to be, trying to eke out a living far from home?

Those who knew him insist that this was the case — indeed, his Facebook page features photographs that bear out their claim that he had aspirations of becoming a model. Or was he, as the police claim, a militant involved in major acts of terrorism, with links to the TTP and other banned groups?

Only an investigation can confirm his credentials — we only know that he was among the four men killed by the police in an ‘encounter’ on the outskirts of Karachi last week.

So far, however, no evidence has emerged about any crime being committed — notwithstanding police allegations, specifically those made by SSP Rao Anwar who headed the team involved in the ‘encounter’ killing.

Tragically, there was no adherence to due process and the fundamental right of the accused to defend himself. With Naqeebullah’s body being handed over to his family on Wednesday, one of his relatives claimed that earlier this month, the deceased had been whisked away from his garments shop in Sohrab Goth by men in plain clothes.

On Thursday, the Sindh home minister took notice of Naqeebullah’s death and ordered the DIG police South to personally conduct an inquiry. But the clean-up needs to go much further.

The phenomenon of ‘encounters’ is a euphemism for extra-judicial killings a consequence of the failing of the justice system and the rot within police departments.

In Karachi, this travesty of justice has become so frequent that SSP Anwar has been given the moniker of ‘encounter specialist’ — all under the very nose of both superiors in the police department and the provincial government. The practice has to be brought to an end.

Now that the Supreme Court has saved the job of Sindh police chief A.D. Khowaja, this is a pressing challenge that he must take up at the earliest.

Published in Dawn, January 19th, 2018

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