An anti-terrorism court (ATC) in Karachi on Monday indicted former Malir SSP Rao Anwar and 17 others for the murder of Waziristan native Naqeebullah Mehsud in a fake encounter in Karachi.
Anwar and the other accused, who were in the courtroom when the charges were framed against them, pleaded 'not guilty'.
The court ordered the complainant and the magistrate, who recorded the testimonies of eyewitnesses, to appear on April 11 and adjourned the hearing until then.
Anwar, along with former deputy superintendent of police Qamar and three others who are accused in the case, are out on bail, while 13 police officials are in jail on judicial remand.
An inquiry team probing the Jan 2018 'extrajudicial killing' of Naqeebullah found that the Waziristan native was killed in a "fake encounter" which was "staged" by the former Malir SSP. Following the inquiry team's findings, Anwar was suspended from his post.
Rao Anwar, however, has stuck to the claim that Naqeeb was a Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan militant. No evidence has emerged to support this claim.
The killing of the young Mehsud had sparked widespread protests by the civil society and then chief justice Mian Saqib Nisar took suo motu notice of the killings. But a formal trial of the case had not been initiated until now.
After eluding law enforcers for two months and upon being offered opportunities by retired Justice Nisar to surrender, the former SSP had finally appeared before the Supreme Court and was subsequently arrested in Islamabad in March last year.
Instead of detaining him in the Karachi central prison, jail authorities had shifted him to a house due to alleged security concerns, declaring it a sub-jail in the Malir Cantonment area. He was later granted bail by the anti-terrorism court No 2 in the two cases pertaining to the kidnapping and murder as well as registering fake criminal cases against the victims in July last.
After slain model’s father Khan Muhammad Mehsud, who is the complainant in the main case, showed no confidence in the ATC-II, the Sindh High Court had transferred the cases to the ATC-III on Nov 5, last year.
“The formal trial has not taken off so far because none of the suspects has been indicted by the trial court in the cases,” Advocate Salahuddin Panhwar, the counsel for the complainant Mehsud, had told Dawn after attending the last hearing on Jan 6.