The Supreme Court on Tuesday, during the Naqeebullah Mehsud extra-judicial killing case hearing, granted protective bail to Rao Anwar and directed the former Malir senior superintendent police (SSP) to appear in court on Friday.
The case was being heard by a three-member bench headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar at the Islamabad registry.
Earlier, the SC had given ten days for the Sindh police to arrest the accused; however, no breakthrough was made with regards to his arrest, although some other police officials allegedly involved in the staged encounter have been arrested.
Sindh Inspector General (IG) A.D. Khowaja on Tuesday told the court that a committee had been constituted to find Anwar's location. He told the bench that the reports compiled by Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Intelligence Bureau (IB), and Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) in this regard have also been furnished.
Khowaja told the court that the authorities have been handling the matter as a high-profile case, adding that the police was trying to trace the location of Anwar's cell phone. With regards to tracing the suspended Malir SSP with the help of WhatsApp, the IGP said that even IB was unable to yield results.
The chief justice, however, reprimanded the provincial police chief, pointing out that the "result of all these efforts was zero".
"Each and every time, we provide you time [for the arrest of Anwar] but it seems that we [the court] ourselves have to arrest him," the CJP said, producing a letter in court which bore Anwar's signature.
IG Khowaja acknowledged that the signature on the letter indeed appeared to be Anwar's.
"Rao Anwar says he is innocent and that he was not present at the site of the fake encounter," the CJP said, adding that the former SSP has requested for a free and fair Joint Investigation Team (JIT) to look into the matter.
The chief justice asked the IGP how the court should proceed in light of the letter, to which IG Khowaja replied that Anwar should be provided with a chance to defend himself.
Bail, JIT conditional to appearance in court
The CJP ordered Rao Anwar to appear in the court at the next hearing, scheduled for Friday, and granted him protective bail in the case. He directed the police not to arrest Anwar and also ordered to constitute a JIT to investigate the incident. The bench, however, made it clear that all these directives are conditional to Anwar's appearance in court on Friday.
"Rao Anwar, in his letter, requested to include ISI, IB, and Military Intelligence (MI), in the JIT," the CJP said in his remarks, adding that while the slain Naqeebullah was "our" child, Anwar should also be provided justice. "We can't declare anyone guilty without evidence," Justice Nisar remarked.
He directed Sindh and Islamabad police to provide security to Anwar and the authorities concerned to not make his letter public.
Earlier, another letter — written by the father of Naqeebullah — was also read in the court. The grieved father raised several questions on the absence of Anwar, claiming that security institutions were well aware about the location of Anwar.
Naqeebullah, a native of South Waziristan residing in Karachi's Sohrab Goth area, was among the four killed in an "encounter" days after allegedly being picked up from a tea stall near the area. Following an uproar over social media, Rao Anwar had insisted all four killed were terrorists.
A high-level police inquiry into the matter, however, outright rejected Anwar's claims and declared Naqeeb innocent.
The demand for the arrest of Naqeeb's killers eventually transformed into a movement for rights of citizens of Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata), with protest in Islamabad ending with assurances from the prime minister to take up the protesters' demands at relevant forums.