KARACHI: An antiterrorism court on Thursday turned down an application filed by former SSP of Malir Rao Anwar to exempt him from personal appearance during hearings in a case pertaining to killing of Naqeebullah Mehsud and three others in an alleged ‘staged’ shootout.

Former SSP Anwar along with his 13 detained and seven absconding subordinates has been charged with killing the 27-year-old aspiring Waziristan model and three others in an alleged staged shoot-out after declaring them militants associated with Daesh and Lashkar-i-Jhangvi in Shah Latif Town on Jan 13, 2018.

On Thursday, the ATC-III judge, who is conducting the trial in the judicial complex inside the central prison, pronounced his judgement reserved on the plea after hearing arguments from both sides.

The judge declined the application seeking exemption for Rao Anwar, the prime accused in the case, from personal appearance during hearings of the case due to reported security threats. The case is already fixed for May 3 for recording statement of complainant Khan Mohammad, the father of slain Naqeebullah Mehsud.

In the application filed under Section 540-A (provision for inquiries and trial being held in the absence of accused in certain cases) of the Criminal Procedure Code, defence counsel Amir Mansoob Qureshi argued that the applicant was a high-profile target for terrorists since he had carried out crackdowns on them during his tenure as police officer.

He cited that even the Supreme Court had passed directions to provide foolproof security to the applicant and requested to the judge to exempt his client from personal appearances before the court in the present case unless his appearance was required by the court.

Opposing the plea, the complainant’s counsel Salahuddin Panhwar contended that the provisions of Section 540-A were relevant in case of illness or physical disability of the accused, but in the present case none of such conditions were faced by the applicant.

He further contended that Anwar was not serving as a police officer anymore which could second his claim of security threat, nor was the application maintainable under the provisions of the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997.

He pleaded to the court to reject the exemption plea.

Published in Dawn, April 26th, 2019