The family and legal team of Naqeebullah Mehsud on Sunday expressed the apprehension that former Malir SSP Rao Anwar might be acquitted in the murder case due to a perceived lack of interest of the prosecution and investigators, saying they were losing the hope for justice.
They were addressing a press conference alongside members of a Grand Jirga and a PTI lawmaker at the Karachi Press Club on Naqeeb's third death anniversary.
Anwar, along with around two dozen of his subordinates, have been charged with killing the aspiring model from South Waziristan and three others after dubbing them "Taliban militants" in a "fake shoot-out" on January 13, 2018.
The family and others noted that at least five prosecution witnesses, all serving police officers, had retracted their statements in the case but authorities had not taken any disciplinary action against them.
They urged the Supreme Court to carry out "monitoring or checks" on the case as was done earlier in order to provide justice to the family.
Alam Sher, Naqeeb's brother, while speaking at the press conference said their father Mohammad Khan had passed away with the hope that the family would get justice but now "we are losing hope."
He recalled that now-Prime Minister Imran Khan had joined protests in Karachi and Islamabad against Naqeeb's killing and urged him to "take interest in the case". He also pointed out that the federal government had promised to establish a college in Naqeeb's name in his village in South Waziristan but it had not happened so far.
Lawyer Jibran Nasir said there were 30 accused in the case; of them, five police officers were on bail, the bail of 18 other officers was rejected who were sent to prisons, while seven policemen were still absconding.
He noted that five policemen who were witnesses of the crime scene and other aspects of the case had retracted their statements. He said the case was based on their testimonies and even though they all were state employees being policemen, the Sindh government or police had not taken any disciplinary action against them; instead, those policemen were being granted "favourite posts".
“We have apprehensions that the state, police and the prosecution have made full preparations to get Rao Anwar acquitted in the Naqeeb case,” Nasir said, adding that such an outcome would also mean Anwar would be absolved of the murders of 444 other people killed in alleged fake ‘encounters’.
The lawyer pointed out that the killing of a young man, Maqsood, in a staged encounter was the only recent case in which a police officer was convicted and it may have been due to the fact that “we did not face political pressures in the case.”
He said two former prime ministers, the current opposition leader in the National Assembly and senior leaders of the PML-N and PPP had been arrested and sent to jails but Anwar had never been put behind bars. “We are compelled to say that all the authorities were weak before Rao Anwar,” Nasir added.
The lawyer said they had submitted an application to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for initiating a corruption probe against Anwar, but after the passage of a year, the watchdog had asked them to provide "more evidence". No probe was initiated even though additional proofs were provided, according to Nasir.
He also criticised the PPP's Sindh government for never speaking against Anwar. Instead, the lawyer said, PPP ministers had held a press conference against SSP Rizwan Ahmed, who was the investigation officer in the Naqeeb murder case, over some police reports relating to Shikarpur, and the PPP leadership termed Anwar a "brave child".
PTI MNA Saifur Rehman Mehsud, meanwhile, said three reports and the findings of a joint investigation team regarding Naqeeb's killing were presented before the Supreme Court by police. But the past three years show that Rao Anwar "was being treated as a federal minister as he was never handcuffed", Rehman said, adding that it was not appropriate for the Sindh government to provide "shelter" to the former Malir SSP.
The lawmaker did not answer directly when asked why the premier and the interior minister who belonged to the PTI were not taking a "stance" in the case. Instead, he said, “I admit Rao Anwar is a powerful and influential person and the Sindh government and police are supporting him.”
At this, Nasir said it was common knowledge that Anwar had remained an "asset" of powerful institutions.
He said if the former police officer was acquitted, it would be a "failure" of the state, its institutions and all the top civilian and military authorities who had promised justice to the family.