When the story of Sonia Naz rape caused a national outcry, two inquiries were ordered into the matter: (1) a judicial inquiry conducted by the Faisalabad Sessions Judge; and (2) a police inquiry ordered by the Punjab IGP and conducted by Zafar Ahmed Qureshi, provincial investigation branch DIG, as chairman and Saad Akhtar Bharwana, investigation branch SP, as member.
The judicial inquiry has come up with some tame conclusions and on the basis of these a relatively mild and innocuous case of illegal confinement (of Asim Yousaf, Sonia Naz’s husband) has been registered against Abdullah Khalid, SP investigation, Faisalabad, the principal character in what, after you read the evidence, is truly a sordid drama.
The police inquiry, however, appears to have gone deeper into the affair. Its findings against SP Abdullah are startling, lending credence to the charges levelled against him and his henchmen by Sonia Naz. The main conclusions—-the words in commas being verbatim quotes—-are:
1. “The ordeal started with the registration of a case against 26 persons, including Asim Yousaf, clerk in Excise and Taxation Office Faisalabad and husband of Sonia Naz.” (The charge: forging of fake registration papers for the purpose of selling stolen or non-custom paid vehicles.)
2. “Thereafter, Faisalabad police started conducting raids at the Excise and Taxation Office Faisalabad.”
3. “...a team from Lahore police (which had come) to enquire about the scandal in Faisalabad let (the culprits) off the hook for about rupees 1.5 to 1.6 million.” (Interesting.)
4. “...48 cases were registered against the staff of Excise and Taxation Office Faisalabad...investigation of these cases was conducted by a team constituted by Abdullah Khalid, SP Investigation...”
5. To apprehend Asim Yousaf, the Faisalabad police raided the house of his father, Malik Muhammad Yousaf, and not finding Asim picked up his two brothers, Muazzam and Hashim and kept them illegally confined at ‘Makooana Centre’.
6. To further pressurize Asim’s father, a case was registered against him, later quashed by the Lahore High Court (Justice Rustam Ali Malik) for being driven by “ulterior” motives. 7. “Sonia Naz, her husband Asim and her in-laws frequently changed residences during the period June to Sept 2004 to escape police harassment/arrest.”
8. “As per the statement of Sonia Naz and her father-in-law, SP Investigation Abdullah Khalid and Inspector Jamshed Chishti demanded Rs 1.45 million to clear Asim of the cases registered against him....At least a sum of Rs I million was paid to the SP through Shaukat Warraich...”(brother-in-law of Khalid Abdullah).
9. Khalid Abdullah has always maintained that Asim, Sonia’s husband, was never taken into custody. This claim is debunked in the following words: “There is overwhelming evidence on record to prove that Asim Yousaf remained in illegal custody of Faisalabad police for a few days during the month of Ramzan—-Oct/Nov 2004—-under the direction of SP Khalid Abdullah....Subsequently (Asim) escaped from the custody of Constable Farid and Constable Noor Muhammad while he had been taken to his residence for a change of clothing.”
10. “...After his release/escape from Faisalabad, Asim Yousaf came to Lahore and joined Sonia Naz (in a rented house). (Later) Sonia Naz and Asim Yousaf along with their family left for Karachi to escape police harassment. In Karachi, they resided in a rented house for around two and a half months where (Sonia) gave birth to a daughter. Thereafter, they returned to their rented house in Defence Housing Society, Lahore.”
11. “Sonia Naz contacted M. D. Tahir Advocate and on his advice filed different writ petitions in the Lahore High Court...”
12. She diligently pursued the writ petitions but on 17 May 20 05 she did not appear in court. Nor did she appear on subsequent dates. Due to her non-appearance, her petitions were consigned to record by the High Court. Counsel M. D. Tahir told the court that petitioner’s whereabouts were not known.
13. Constantly on the run from the police, Sonia thought of approaching the Prime Minister of Pakistan and for this purpose somehow managed to sneak into the National Assembly. On the orders of the speaker she was arrested and sent to Adiala Jail on 21 Apr 2005. She was bailed out four days later. This incident being splashed in the press, Sonia Naz became a familiar name.
14. Sonia claims she was abducted from Lahore, brought to an unknown place where 4-5 days later SP Abdullah “...violated her modesty but could not have sexual intercourse with her and instead urinated on her face...SP Abdullah then called Inspector Jamshed Chishti who raped her.” She says she was kept there for 18-19 days and then dropped off near Thokar Niaz Beg in Lahore. On the run again, Sonia went to Nawabshah, then Malir Cantt Karachi where she and her husband, who had met up with her, stayed together in a rented house.
The rape allegation is the trickiest part of the story with just Sonia’s word for it and no independent corroboration. Even so, the report sifts through whatever evidence is available and goes on to say:
1. “Sonia’s mother-in-law, Mst. Khurshed Begum appeared before the Inquiry Committee and stated that on 3rd May 2005, Sonia Naz left the house to procure medicine for her child but did not return. Residents of the locality told her that they had seen some unknown persons abducting Sonia Naz in a car. However, no independent witness from the locality appeared before the Inquiry Committee to corroborate the above statement. Mst. Khurshed Begum also did not appear after recording her initial statement, although she was summoned repeatedly.”
2. “Although no direct evidence regarding the abduction of Sonia Naz has come on record certain circumstances...cannot be (easily) overlooked...”
3. “...Sonia Naz (was) contesting the writ petitions filed by her in the Lahore High Court keenly and consistently even after being arrested (from) the National Assembly. However, after 27th April 2005 she did not appear in court...”
4. “Muhammad Anwar Chaudry r/o of House No 201, Block H-2, Johar Town, Lahore, where Sonia Naz, along with her family, stayed in May/June 2005, made a statement before the Inquiry Committee that Sonia Naz never visited her rented house after 4-5 May 2005 and that her mother and brother came around 23rd May to inform him that Sonia had gone to Karachi and they wanted to vacate the house. He further confirmed that the ailing son of Sonia Naz remained with the mother and sister-in-law of Sonia Naz in her absence.”
5. “Regarding allegations of torture and rape, Khurshed Begum, mother-in-law of Sonia Naz stated that when Sonia came back after about 20 days she was in a precarious condition, having bruises on her face. Her clothes (burqa and shalwar) were torn and she was without a shirt. She told them that Jamshed Chishti, etc, accomplices of Abdullah Khalid SP, had abducted her and outraged her modesty. Sonia’s younger sister, Shaheen Iram, also corroborated Khurshed Begum’s statement.”
6. “When asked to point out independent witnesses, Sonia Naz indicated that after the occurrence, when she reached Karachi, she had to appear for an interview for a job. Since her face was bruised she visited a beauty parlour in Gulshan-i-Hadid Phase-11, Karachi. Upon this her photograph was sent to SHO Police Station, Malir City, Karachi—-Inspector Wasim Baloch—-with a direction to locate the said beauty parlour and record the statement of its owner. (Baloch) accordingly recorded the statement of Mrs Sajeela Sahar—-the owner of Saba’s Beauty Parlour—-who was initially very reluctant (to speak).”
7. “Mrs Sahar stated that one day during 1-10 June 2005, the lady whose photo was shown to her, visited her beauty parlour. Marks of violence were visible on her face. (The lady said) she had received the injuries by falling from a staircase. She further clarified that she had not known this woman before.”
8. “Sonia gave the particulars of other such witnesses in Karachi but due to paucity of time and incomplete particulars, the Inquiry Team, stationed in Lahore, could not examine them.”
9. “...Sonia had not got herself medically examined. She did, however, produce a light green shalwar torn from one side below the knee (which she said) she was wearing at the time of the alleged rape. This shalwar had been washed a long time back, prior to its production before the Inquiry Committee and as such it is of no evidentiary value...(Sonia) stated that she would produce further evidence in support of the allegation after registration of a case.”
10. “Sonia claimed that she could describe the physical anatomy of SP Abdullah and Inspector Jamshed. Subsequently, she (described) the anatomy of Inspector Jamshed which had reasonable resemblance with him...”
11. “Sonia Naz contends that she contacted Imran, a Reader of the Lahore High Court, via telephone from Karachi after she had been raped, as he had earlier facilitated her meeting with the Honourable Judge. She requested Imran to bring the matter to the notice of the Honourable Judge. She also informed Imran that she intended to appear in court to explain what had happened to her. The Reader advised her to save her own life as well as the lives of her children and not to pursue the matter more. The Reader was summoned through the Registrar, Lahore High Court, to verify the contention but he was not permitted to appear before the Inquiry Committee.”
12. “Sonia Naz was examined in connection with the allegation of rape on more than one occasion. Each time she spoke with conviction and there was no material contradiction in the part of her statement regarding abduction and rape. On the other hand, Inspector Jamshed Chishti changed his statements from time to time.”
13. “Sub-Inspector Fayyaz Ahsan was a member of the investigation team constituted for the investigation of cases registered against Excise and Taxation Staff, Faisalabad...He and Inspector Jamshed were confronted with each other during inquiry. Inspector Jamshed stated that in a meeting well before 30th August 2005 held at the office of SP Abdullah Khalid, SI Fayyaz showed nude photographs on his mobile phone saying that ‘This is Sonia, we had a get-together and we had sex with her.’ SI Fayyaz denied the allegations. When he was asked to show his mobile, he said he had left it in Peshawar but subsequently the mobile was found in his car which contained some objectionable photos of a nude woman with two police officers...”
14. SP Abdullah Khalid is on record as saying that during court proceedings on 6 May 2005 he informed Justice Rustam Ali Malik that the next allegation of Sonia Naz would be of abduction and rape. It is unimaginable how the SP could have foreseen the coming events.”
15. “...the circumstances and statements discussed above raise a strong presumption in support of (Sonia’s allegations). Since Sonia had filed various writ petitions against SP Abdullah Khalid and Inspector Jamshed Chishti, there is a strong probability that they might have abducted her in order to (stop her from pursuing her cases against them).”
16. “As regards the allegation of rape, there are sufficient grounds for registration of an FIR and subsequent investigation.”
The report is scathing about the Faisalabad police in general. “The standard of investigation in all cases examined was extremely poor...It appears that lacunas in investigation were deliberately left to provide undue benefit to the accused...It seems that those Excise and Taxation Department employees who paid hefty amounts as bribes were neither arrested nor made proclaimed offenders and even the accused who were challaned were challaned with (insufficient) incriminating evidence...Even Asim Yousaf, a proclaimed offender in five cases registered at Faisalabad, remained in illegal custody but was not (formally) arrested for obvious reasons.”
DIG Faisalabad, Ch Sajjad Ahmad, comes out poorly from the whole affair. “The fact that SP Abdullah was a highly corrupt officer...was known to the DIG as per his statement.” But he initiated no report against SP Abdullah. “About Inspector Jamshed Chishti, the DIG said that he was a corrupt officer and another Abdullah Khalid in the making.” Yet the DIG took no action against him. The DIG also made the surprising statement that he came to know of the Sonia Naz affair after she was arrested from the National Assembly. Yet during the inquiry he confirmed the charges of corruption against SP Abdullah and also the illegal detention of Asim Yousaf and the abduction of Sonia Naz “suggesting thereby that some relevant facts were already in his knowledge but he failed to take cognizance of the matter.”
Not much better is the case of DPO Faisalabad, Capt (r) Muhammad Amin: “(Amin) said he had probed on his own and not seen any proof of SP Abdullah or his staff taking any illegal gratification. The Committee finds his statement hard to believe. Huge irregularities and corruption took place in these investigations, Asim Yousaf was wrongfully confined and subsequently escaped/freed but the DPO remained oblivious, which speaks volumes of his inefficiency, lack of supervisory control and interest in the affairs of the district.”
As for the chief culprit, SP Abdullah, his guilt stands out clearly: “Asim Yousaf surrendered himself to SP Abdullah at his office. Instead of arresting this important member of the Excise and Taxation racket, SP Abdullah received a bribe and delivered him to the custody of Inspector Jamshed and had him illegally confined...He concealed the fact of confinement of Asim Yousaf from the Lahore High Court thereby committing perjury. He caused illegal harassment to Sonia Naz and her family and there is a strong possibility of his involvement in the abduction of Sonia Naz...”
The report goes on to say: “During this inquiry, the Committee observed a complete breakdown of the relationship between supervisory officers. Instead of focusing on their prime responsibility of prevention and detection of crime, they indulged in intrigue and conspiracy and publicly maligned each other. Their conduct was undignified and unbecoming of senior officers. SP Abdullah kept on distracting the Committee by holding the DIG responsible for the Sonia Naz case. He felt that the DIG had instigated Sonia Naz against him because of friction between the two on account of (some) much publicized land grabbing cases...”
No action appears to have been taken so far on the basis of the report’s findings.
The IGP Punjab must have received the inquiry report by now. Has he passed it on to Chief Minister Pervaiz Elahi? If he has, what action is the CM contemplating, if he is contemplating any at all? Or will the CM be inclined to wait for another international outcry to break out before being moved to do something?
Needless to say, sitting on the report will inevitably fuel charges of a cover-up. After Mukhtar Mai and Dr Shazia Khalid, can Pakistan afford another cover-up?