RAO Anwar being brought to the Secretariat Police Station, Islamabad, on Wednesday.—INP
RAO Anwar being brought to the Secretariat Police Station, Islamabad, on Wednesday.—INP

ISLAMABAD: Former superintendent of police Rao Anwar, who had gone into hiding nearly two months ago after expressing distrust of police investigation into the killing of a young aspiring model, Naqeebullah Mehsud, was taken into custody after he finally surrendered to the Supreme Court on Wednesday.

“This is the majesty of court before which he [Rao Anwar] has submitted,” observed a visibly relieved Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar who had earlier issued repeated orders to the Sindh police chief for the fugitive officer’s arrest in the suo motu case pertaining to the killing of 27-year-old Mehsud in Karachi on Jan 13.

The Supreme Court rejected his request for protective bail with an observation that a fugitive from justice neither commanded any sympathy nor was he a favourite child of the law.

Sindh police shift fugitive officer to Karachi for trial; Naqeeb’s father says his tribe won’t harm the ex-SP

The court appointed a Joint Investi­gation Team (JIT) comprising officials of the Sindh police to grill the officer after rejecting his request for including representatives of Inter-Services Intel­ligence (ISI), Military Intel­ligence (MI) and Intel­li­gence Bureau (IB) instead of police officers from Sindh.

However, the court dropped contempt of court proceedings initiated against him for defying its order to appear before it and lifted the direction for freezing his bank accounts and blocking of his computerised national identity card.

His name will remain on the Exit Control List (ECL) as per the order of the Supreme Court on Jan 23 when he had made a botched attempt to flee the country. Since then the whereabouts of the former police officer had been unknown.

Attired in a raisin black shalwar kameez, the wanted officer entered the court which had been assuring him of complete protection if he voluntarily surrendered.

Shortly before his appearance before the court at around 4.12pm, the reporters covering legal proceedings as a matter of routine sensed an unusual security detail outside Courtroom No 1 as well as the main building. Escorted by the officials of Islamabad police and anti-terrorist squad, Rao Anwar entered the premises from an uncommon entrance near the sprawling lawn for judges and the presidency. From there, he was taken in a white sedan and then escorted straight to the courtroom.

Observers were of the opinion that his ‘mysterious appearance’ was the result of intense back-channel efforts and in-camera briefings during the past few days that helped in identification of those who facilitated his attempt to leave for Dubai from the Islamabad airport on Jan 23.

Ramsha Jahangir
Ramsha Jahangir

When he approached the rostrum inside the courtroom, the only words he uttered were “I am innocent”. “You used to pose to be fearless...where were you hiding?” inquired the chief justice, adding why he did not believe and repose trust in the court that had assured him of protection.

“And the letters you wrote to the court earlier were in bad taste,” observed CJP Nisar while mentioning his past request to unfreeze his bank accounts.

The counsel for Rao Anwar, Shamim-ur-Rehman Malik, pleaded to the court to show mercy by accepting his client’s request for protective bail as he was facing threats. Rejecting the request the court observed that the fugitive from justice neither commanded any sympathy nor was he a favourite child of the law and ordered the Sindh police — led by IGP A.D. Khowaja — to immediately take him into custody.

Advocate Faisal Siddiqui, who was representing Mohammad Khan, the father of the deceased Naqeebullah, told Dawn that Rao Anwar would be produced before an antiterrorism court in Karachi where his trial would commence instantly. He thanked the apex court and observed that what had happened in the court showed that the fundamental rights of the citizens reigned supreme and that nobody should have doubts or question the authority of the court.

“We are not on a popularity campaign and we are blindfolded only to dispense justice,” the chief justice replied.

The court also rejected another request of the counsel for Rao Anwar to constitute the JIT comprising officials of the three intelligence agencies instead of officers of Sindh police. Before appointing a JIT, the chief justice said judges were going for consultation and not to seek instructions from anyone and then the court retired for a few minutes.

Later, the court announced the formation of JIT comprising Additional IG Aftab Pathan, Additional IG Waliullah Dal, DIG South Azad Ahmed Khan, DIG East Zulfikar Larak and SSP Dr Rizwan. AIG Pathan will head the JIT.

While directing the police to take the former SP’s custody, the court observed that the Sindh police would not need transition remand from the Islamabad police and could take the officer straight to Karachi. As long as Anwar remained in the custody of the Sindh police, it would be the responsibility and personal obligation of the Sindh police chief to protect the life of the officer, the court observed.

At the same time, the court cautioned the elders of Mehsud tribe against attempting to taking revenge or hurling threats at Rao Anwar directly or indirectly. In this regard, the court also took an undertaking from Naqeebullah’s father, Mohammad Khan, and a tribal elder Maulana Ishamuddin.

The court then ordered that an investigation be conducted independent of the Supreme Court proceedings or the media coverage in the entire episode.

While talking to Dawn, Mr Khan said he was happy and his confidence in the judiciary had strengthened after the day’s proceedings. The surrender was the proof of the people’s trust in the court, he said, while announcing that no harm would come to the officer from the Mehsuds as they were peace-loving people.

Naqeebullah Mehsud, who hailed from South Waziristan, was allegedly apprehended by the Karachi police on Jan 2. He was killed along with three other suspects in an encounter near Usman Khaskheli Goth on the outskirts of Karachi.

Published in Dawn, March 22nd, 2018