RAO Anwar is a man whose reputation precedes him.
The former police officer, known infamously as an ‘encounter specialist’, is accused of involvement in nearly 200 phoney encounters, in which around 400 people have reportedly died. The most high-profile case he is accused of being involved in is the murder of Naqeebullah Mehsud — a young aspiring model hailing from the erstwhile tribal areas — and three other individuals in the outskirts of Karachi in January 2018. Naqeeb and the others were gunned down after they were falsely accused of being militants. Rao Anwar and several other former policemen are currently facing trial in the case.
However on Tuesday, the ex-police officer earned another dubious badge of honour; Rao Anwar has been listed by the US treasury department as a ‘global violator of rights’ for reportedly being “responsible for staging numerous fake encounters”. If this listing is endorsed by the UN, Pakistan will need to seize Rao Anwar’s assets.
The listing can only be welcomed as the former policeman appears to be untouchable in this country. Linked to some of the most powerful players in Pakistan, he has been granted special treatment, given VIP protocol and has had his house declared a sub-jail, despite being accused in a high-profile murder case. Meanwhile, the trial in the Naqeeb case drags on, with witnesses reportedly facing intimidation. It is hoped that with the recent listing, the state is prodded into action to speed up the trial so that justice can be served.
Sadly, Mohammed Khan, Naqeeb’s father, passed away earlier this month without seeing the killers of his son punished. Rogue cops such as Rao Anwar are far too common in Pakistan, with fake encounters being the ‘easy’ way out in a broken criminal justice system. Along with reform of the justice system, it is essential that those who perpetuate the culture of extrajudicial killings in this country are brought to justice to ensure that these dreadful tactics are abandoned by law enforcers, and the rule of law reigns supreme.
Published in Dawn, December 12th, 2019