An inquiry team of senior police officers probing the alleged extrajudicial killing of Naqeebullah Mehsud has found that the Waziristan native was killed in a "fake encounter" which was "staged" by SSP Malir Rao Anwar on January 13, well-placed sources said on Saturday.
The high-level inquiry committee also concluded in its initial report submitted to the Sindh police that the deceased 27-year-old man had no militant tendencies.
During its two-day probe, which included a visit to the site of the alleged 'encounter', the committee found no sign of an exchange of gunfire, leading the inquiry team to declare Naseemullah, better known as Naqeebullah, an aspirational man who had no history of militancy or criminal activity.
The committee, headed by Additional IGP Sindh Counter-Terrorism Department Dr Sanaullah Abbasi and comprising DIG East Sultan Ali Khowaja and DIG South Azad Khan, was formed on Thursday to investigate the veracity of the police 'encounter' in which four suspects were killed earlier this month.
On the committee's recommendation, SSP Anwar was earlier in the day removed from his post as the senior superintendent of police Malir.
Sources familiar with preliminary findings of the inquiry told Dawn that the committee members during the probe visited the site of the 'encounter' in Shah Latif Town off National Highway where they recorded statements of half a dozen policemen, including SHO Shah Latif Town Amanullah Marwat, who had taken part in the alleged shootout.
The SHO told the probe team that the police party had carried out a targeted raid in the area acting on a tip-off from an intelligence agency. The inquiry committee discovered that the place where the purported encounter took place was an abandoned poultry farm, sources said.
SHO Marwat claimed that they had come under attack from suspected militants when they encircled their hideout and four suspects were killed in the ensuing exchange of fire, including one suspect who was later identified as Naseemullah alias Naqeebullah Mehsud.
After a thorough examination of the poultry farm, the inquiry team was of the considered view that the encounter was "fake" and "staged", the sources told Dawn.
The committee found no signs of gunfire which would have come from inside the poultry farm during the 'encounter'. Besides, there were different firing marks in a room and on walls of the poultry farm, which the team members declared as "post-incident and fabricated", the sources added.
The inquiry team did not find any piece of evidence showing that the police party came under attack from inside the poultry shed.
No militancy tendency
After establishing that it was a 'fake encounter', the probe body also tried to collect information about the deceased man.
The sources said that the committee members were of the view that Naqeebullah did not have any tendency of militancy as evident from his profile and social media posts.
They suggested that the deceased seemed to be living a happy family life with goals for their future in his mind.
Visit to prison
According to sources, the inquiry team during its investigation also visited Central Prison Karachi to ascertain a claim SSP Anwar had made in his statement before the committee: that Naqeebullah was wanted in a criminal case lodged at Sachal police station in 2014.
The now-suspended police officer had also told the probe team that Naqeebullah had remained a close aide of one Qari Ehsan, who was presently confined in the prison.
The committee members met Ehsan in the prison and showed him different photos of Naqeebullah; however, he (Ehsan) told them that the deceased was not his accomplice.
The committee will submit its conclusive findings in five days.
Innocent or a terrorist?
Naqeebullah, who hailed from South Waziristan, was among the four suspects killed in an 'encounter' with a police team headed by SSP Anwar in the Usman Khaskheli Goth on the outskirts of the metropolis last week.
Anwar has stuck to the claim that the deceased was a Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militant but so far, no evidence has emerged.
A statement reportedly issued by a spokesperson of TTP's South Waziristan chapter, however, had termed Anwar's claim as "baseless", clarifying that Naqeebullah had no links with the banned militant outfit.
Naqeebullah's family also disputed the SSP's claim, saying that the 27-year-old had no links with any militant organisation.
Naqeebullah — whose name is given as Naseemullah on his national identity card — was a shop owner fond of modelling, a relative of the deceased had earlier told Dawn.
Sindh Home Minister Sohail Anwar Siyal and PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari had taken notice of his death on Thursday following an uproar on social media over the alleged staged 'encounter'.
The next day, the Supreme Court of Pakistan also took suo motu notice of the incident. The Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar has asked the Sindh IGP to submit a report on the matter within seven days.
The ‘encounter specialist’
Rao Anwar, called the ‘encounter specialist’ by some, is known for carrying out 'encounters' of controversial nature against outlaws and has claimed in the past to have killed militants belonging to various terrorist organisations and the then-Mohajir Qaumi Movement activists during his raids.
The majority of such cases remained unquestioned, apart from the few where the families of those shot dead moved the court.