KARACHI: The investigators are still trying to collect “basic forensic and circumstantial evidence” related to the murder of renowned rights activist Perween Rahman as two joint investigation teams reportedly overlooked the basic things to resolve the mystery surrounding the high-profile killing, it emerged on Monday.
This disclosure came in an interim report of the new joint investigation team (JIT) filed early this month in the Supreme Court, where the slain activist’s sister Aquila Ismail moved an application for reinvestigation of the case by the Federal Investigation Agency.
Ms Rahman, head of the Orangi Pilot Project (OPP), was gunned down near her office in Orangi Town on March 13, 2013.
Earlier, two JITs constituted by the Sindh government to probe the high-profile killing failed to make any breakthrough in the investigation.
The third joint investigation team, constituted by the federal government in February, with director of the FIA’s counterterrorism wing Mazhar Ul Haq Kakakhel as its head and former SSP South Pir Mohammed Shah, Sindh Rangers superintendent Mohammad Asghar, the Inter-Services Intelligence’s director Mohammad Arif and the Intelligence Bureau’s director Raja Mustafa Ali, as its members, filed its interim report with the Supreme Court earlier this month. However, it sought six months (from February till September) to complete the investigation.
Slain activist’s sister expresses disappointment over lack of progress in the case
The interim report stated that the matter was being probed de novo (from the beginning) since complainant Aquila Ismail told the investigators that no fruitful investigation had been done in the case of the murder of her elder sister.
In her statement, the complainant deplored that the investigating officers, including the senior officers, could not reach any conclusion on the ground that it was too late to collect legally acceptable evidence at a belated stage.
“No police officer took statement of the OPP staff and those in the neighbourhood,” she told the JIT, adding that Ms Rahman had no personal enmity with anyone.
The report stated that to find out and fill the lacunas in the previous investigations and to examine the case record the new JIT got attached with the Intelligence Bureau’s director Rizwan Shah-led JIT to seek assistance from the previous IOs.
The new team decided to ascertain the wider motives for killing Ms Rahman by examining the link of the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan, water mafia/illegal hydrants, land-grabbing and Goth Abad schemes with the murder, the interim report stated.
In the first phase, the JIT members met Ms Ismail, also the petitioner, who stated that her sister was targeted due to her work which was primarily against the interests of the land and water mafia.
“She might have been targeted due to the work that she was doing,” the report quoted Ms Ismail as saying.
In the first phase, it examined eight staffers and office-holders of the OPP.
Ms Ismail told the investigators that her elder sister was working against land-grabbers and illegal water hydrants and suspected that they might have played some role in her murder, the report quoted her as saying.
“Perween Rahman was documenting the lands of Mohammad Khan Colony, Gadap, Malir, Keamari etc which was not in the interest of the land-grabbers,” the complainant said and believed that the “land-grabbers have killed her”.
She recalled that Ms Rahman once told her that the “Swati group” was interested in the land of the OPP office for establishing a karate centre and once they even entered the premises of the office to make Ms Rahman surrender the land, the report added.
The complainant disclosed to the investigators that OPP employee Shamsuddin, alias Shamsoo, was the last person to talk to Ms Rahman on the day of her murder. “He delayed the departure of Ms Perween Rahman from office for some unknown reason, and because of this she doubted that he may have some information regarding the murder,” the report stated.
She suspected that Shamsuddin might also have links with the five accused persons, already arrested in the case. She also suspects that an another employee, Rasheed Gul, whom Ms Rahman had dismissed for stealing Rs6,000, but was reluctant to nominate him in the murder, might also know something about the crime.
Sources told Dawn that Mr Shamsuddin used to work as a recovery officer for the OPP while his brother Sirajuddin worked on the designing and maps of the projects.
The report further stated that according to Ms Ismail another OPP director, Anwar Rashid, had received threatening calls or emails and informed the apex court that the same information had been shared with the authorities concerned to trace the unknown caller.
It mentioned that five OPP staffers, including Shamsuddin and Sirajuddin, did not appear before the JIT to record their statements. “A team was constituted to arrest both the brothers, who were summoned twice, while the Nadra authorities were approached to seek requisite information while the cellular companies and other agencies for tracing their mobile phones and collecting their call detail record and locations, etc,” it added.
Cops and accused interrogated
The report said that the JIT members also visited the crime scene, took necessary notes and prepared a list of the witnesses in the neighbourhood, who would be examined during investigation.
It further mentioned that the relevant record pertaining to all the related cases/FIRs had been requisitioned to find out the links among the incidents to unearth the motive for the murder.
The police officers associated with the case, including the investigation officers, were examined by the JIT in the second phase, the report said.
In the third phase, the investigators also grilled three of the five accused persons detained in the Karachi Central Prison in connection with Ms Rahman’s murder, the report added.
The investigators grilled the key accused, Abdul Raheem Swati, his son Imran Swati and Ayaz Ali, inside the prison in April.
“All the detained accused said that neither they had committed the murder of the OPP director nor were they part of any conspiracy, which resulted in her murder”, it added.
“It is pertinent to mention here that Raheem Swati, who made a confession before the senior superintendent of police, has retracted his confession and stated that he made confession under pressure of police,” the report stated.
The report stated that the other important details, which may help the JIT in apprehending other persons involved in the present case, had been taken and requisite actions initiated in the light of the information shared by them.
The other persons arrested in the case will be interrogated later in the light of information collected by that time, it added.
Basic evidence collection
In order to collect the basic forensic evidence six years after the murder, the report said to conduct geofencing of the crime scene and a CDR analysis it had been recommended to appoint the focal persons of the NR3/Cybercrime Wing of the FIA, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority, the PTCL and four private cellular companies.
It mentioned that the JIT started receiving information from different agencies and cellular companies which was being analysed and further actions were being planned in the light of the information received so far.
Help from media and public
The report said that the programmes broadcast on television channels regarding Perween Rahman, articles written in newspapers, confession made by Raheem Swati on TV channels and interviews given by the slain activist were analysed and requests made to Pemra and other relevant persons to share the requisite information and come forward and help the JIT in ascertaining the facts.
It said the public had also been invited to come forward and share information related to the murder, adding that the telephone numbers and email addresses had been shared with the public to share such information without any fear. The JIT has also decided to call the public for sharing information through the radio channels of Karachi, it added.
Published in Dawn, June 18th, 2019