Sindh Inspector General of Police A.D. Khowaja said on Wednesday that suspended SP Rao Anwar, who is absconding in the extrajudicial killing case of 27-year-old aspiring model Naqeebullah Mehsud, has been contacting media representatives through WhatsApp, which is something police lacks the ability to trace.
"He has been calling [reporters] on WhatsApp and we are trying to trace his location," Khowaja said while talking to reporters at the Supreme Court.
In response to a question, he said police lack the "competence" to trace WhatsApp calls, but added that police have contacted the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority and intelligence agencies for help in this regard.
Law enforcement agencies have been trying to trace and arrest Anwar for one week. He was last seen at Benazir Bhutto International Airport on January 23 attempting to take a flight to Dubai when the FIA immigration staff stopped him from going abroad as he has been facing charges of extrajudicial killings in Karachi. Hours later, his name was placed on the Exit Control List on the directive of the Supreme Court.
When asked why the former SSP was not arrested while leaving Islamabad airport, IG Khowaja said this was for police in the capital to answer.
The Sindh police chief said they have sought FIA's help to ascertain if Anwar was trying to escape the country on fake documents. He said he could not provide a date for when Anwar would be arrested.
After news broke on Tuesday that a joint team of FIA and Karachi police led by Senior Superintendent of Police (investigations) Zulfiqar Mahar had raided a house allegedly owned by Anwar in Islamabad, the former SSP Malir sent a text message to Karachi-based reporters, denying that he owned that house. He also sent an image of the electricity bill of the same house in the name of one Waqas Rifat.
Police see footage of Rao's escape attempt
Meanwhile, the Karachi police party making efforts to arrest Anwar visited the Benazir Bhutto International Airport, where SSP Mahar was shown the CCTV footage of Anwar's alleged attempt to escape from the country.
According to airport sources, police examined the footage at the control room in which Anwar was seen arriving at the airport in a Mercedes and then proceeding towards the lounge. They also found out the number of the car in which Anwar left the airport with the help of the footage.
Two other people were spotted in the car in which Anwar arrived at the airport and efforts are being made to identify them, the sources said.
3 policemen identified by witnesses
In a separate development, three policemen allegedly involved in the Karachi 'encounter' that resulted in the extrajudicial killing of North Waziristan native Naqeebullah were picked out by eyewitnesses during an identification parade in court on Wednesday.
Assistant sub-inspector (ASI) Allahyar, head constable Muhammad Iqbal and constable Arshad Ali were produced before a judicial magistrate in Malir, where two eyewitnesses identified them in an identification parade.
Both witnesses were arrested by the former Malir SSP Rao Anwar along with Naqeebullah and two of his friends. However, they were both released on January 6, while Naqeebullah and three others were killed in a staged encounter on January 13.
Muhammad Iqbal told the court that he had performed "general duty" and "stayed at the checkpoint", but the eyewitnesses told the court that he had been standing right next to the police van when they were arrested.
The court was told that Arshad Ali was in the police mobile that took the witnesses from Sher Agha Hotel to the Sachal police checkpoint.
Arshad told the court that the witnesses had seen his clothes and he wished to change. When the magistrate allowed it, police changed his clothes.
The witnesses told the court that Allahyar had arrived in plainclothes at the hotel they were arrested from and was a part of the police party that apprehended them.
Allahyar rejected their claims, however, claiming that the witnesses' statements were "not correct".
The court asked him if had objections over being paraded for identification to which he replied in the negative.
The officers were shifted to the Sachal police station after the identification parade.
The officers were three of six policemen that had been sent on remand by a sessions court on January 28.
Sub-inspector Mohammad Yasin, ASI Supurd Hussain and head constable Khizar Hayat were also produced before the administrative judge by Senior Superintendent Police Investigations Malir Abid Ali Qaimkhani, who is investigating the case, to secure their remand.
The investigation officer (IO) informed the court that the suspects were arrested on Jan 26. He said that during initial questioning, the detained suspects had disclosed that they were part of a team which killed Naqeebullah Mehsud in the 'fake encounter' and their absconding accomplices were also involved in the extrajudicial killing.
The IO sought their custody for two weeks in order to produce them before a judicial magistrate for an identification parade, the arrest of absconding officials, and further investigation of the case.
According to the remand paper of the officers, Naqeebullah, hailing from North Waziristan, was picked up along with his two friends on Jan 3 near a hotel on Abul Hassan Isfahani Road by eight to nine plainclothed subordinates of Rao Anwar.
The other two detainees were set free on Jan 6, while the whereabouts of Naqeebullah remained unknown and his cell phone was also found powered off as the former SSP allegedly kept him in wrongful detention, it added.
It further stated that on Jan 17, the relatives of the deceased came to know through the media that Rao Anwar and his associates had allegedly killed Naqeebullah and three others in a staged encounter in Shah Latif Town, adding that the provincial police officer had constituted a three-member inquiry committee, comprising seniors police officials, to probe the incident, and the committee had found Anwar and his associates involved in the case.
Sindh Home Minister Sohail Anwar Siyal and PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari had taken notice of Mehsud's death following uproar on social media over the alleged staged encounter.
An enquiry committee, formed by Inspector General of Police (IGP) Sindh A.D Khowaja, concluded that Naqeebullah did not have links to any militant outfit and was killed extra-judicially. The investigation report led to Khowaja removing Anwar from his post as SSP Malir on January 20.
The next day, the Supreme Court of Pakistan also took suo motu notice of the incident. Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar had asked the Sindh IGP to submit a report on the matter within seven days.
After the staged encounter on Jan 13, the police had described Mehusd and three other deceased as ‘Taliban militants’ and also registered a case against them under Sections 353 (criminal assault to deter public servant from discharge his duty), 324 (attempt to commit murder) and 34 (common intention) of the Pakistan Penal Code and Sections ¾ of the Explosives Substances Act, 1908 read with Section 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997 at the Shah Latif Town police station.
A case against Rao Anwar and his associates was registered on Jan 23 under sections 302 (premeditated murder), 365 (kidnapping with intent secretly and wrongfully to confine person), 344 (wrongful confinement for ten or more day), 109 (abetment) and 34 (common intention) of the PPC read with Section 7 of the ATA on the complaint of the deceased’s father Mohammad Khan at the Sachal police station.
The whereabouts of Anwar remain unknown.
With additional reporting by Tahir Naseer in Rawalpindi.