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KARACHI: An antiterrorism court on Tuesday granted bail to suspended SSP Rao Anwar, who was detained in a house declared as ‘sub-jail’ in the Malir cantonment, in a case pertaining to alleged kidnapping for ransom and killing of Naqeebullah Mehsud and three others in an alleged ‘staged’ encounter.

The suspended SSP and his 11 detained subordinates along with around 15 absconding officers are accused of abducting an aspiring model hailing from South Waziristan, Naseemullah, better known as Naqeebullah Mehsud, for ransom and killing him with three other detainees by dubbing them as “militants” in an encounter in Malir.

The ATC-II judge pronounced the verdict, which was reserved on July 5, after hearing arguments from the defence, prosecution and complainant’s sides.

The judge granted bail against a surety bond of Rs1 million and also directed the undertrial police officer to surrender his passport.

Another bail plea of suspended SSP fixed for 16th

However, the suspended SSP could not be released immediately since another case is also pending against him before the same court and his bail in the second case is fixed for hearing on July 16.

Rao Anwar, who was arrested in Islamabad after he finally surrendered to the Supreme Court on March 21 after eluding the law enforcers for one month, was shifted to Karachi the same day and produced before the trial court.

The trial court granted his month-long judicial remand on the request of the investigating officer, who cited security threats to the life of the undertrial police officer. However, he was shifted to the Multan Lines in the Malir cantonment area, where his house was declared as ‘sub-jail’ and he was still living there.

Later, he moved an application seeking bail in the main case pertaining to abduction and extrajudicial killing of Mehsud and three others.

Defence lawyers Amir Mansoob Qureshi and Mushtaq Ahmed were of the view that the forensic evidence, including the geofencing and Call Data Record (CDR), presented by the investigating officer did not establish the presence of Rao Anwar at the scene at the time of the alleged encounter.

They said none of the prosecution witnesses, who had appeared before the joint investigation team, in their statements had determined that the then Malir SSP was present when the alleged offence was committed.

They contended that there were contradictions in the statements of the two eyewitnesses recorded by IO under Section 161 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), which were mentioned in the FIR, that the victims were abducted on January 3. Later they testified before the judicial magistrate under Section 164 that the abductions took place on Jan 3 or 4.

The defence counsel denied the allegations of involvement of the suspended police officer in the killings of Naqeebullah Mehsud and three others.

On the other hand, Salahuddin Ahmed, the counsel for the complainant, opposed the bail plea, arguing that the reports of the geofencing and CDR suggested presence of Rao Anwar at the fake encounter, which he had also claimed at the press conference held on the same day.

He contended that the CDR of the mobile phones under use of Rao Anwar and his subordinates, who took part in the fake encounter, had suggested his presence in the vicinity which was enough to believe that he took part in the killings.

During the final arguments, special public prosecutor Nazeer Ahmed had simply opposed the bail plea.

Second case

The court fixed on July 16 another bail application filed by Rao Anwar in the second case lodged against him and others for allegedly registering fake cases pertaining to recovery of illicit arms and explosives from Naqeebullah Mehsud and others.

Former investigating officer Abid Qaimkhani had registered the case against the suspended SSP and his subordinates for lodging fake criminal cases against the victims after the joint investigation team found the encounter fake and subsequently concluded that the criminal cases against the victims were false.

Meanwhile, the court fixed the main case on July 27 and reissued warrants for arrest of more than 12 absconding suspects.

Published in Dawn, July 11th, 2018