ISLAMABAD: The Punjab government has assured the Supreme Court that it will leave no stone unturned to trace the culprits as well as the “Naalain-i-Mubarak” (holy relics) which went missing from Lahore’s Badshahi Masjid in 2002.
The assurance was held out through a report placed before a two-judge Supreme Court bench on Thursday.
The bench, headed by Justice Ijaz-ul-Ahsan, ordered the provincial government to continue efforts for recovery of the holy relics.
The case was initiated suo motu by former chief justice of Pakistan Saqib Nisar in 2018 on an application submitted by Peer S. A. Jafferi, who disputed the belief that the relics had been stolen. Instead, he alleged, “a group of individuals had sold” the sacred objects.
“I am running from pillar to post in search of a clue about the holy relics,” Peer Jafferi said after the hearing. He had come to the Supreme Court barefoot, wearing a black Shalwar-Kameez suit.
According to a report prepared by a joint investigation team (JIT) constituted on the orders of Justice Saqib Nisar, the Auqaf Department’s administrator had moved an application at Lahore’s Tibbi City Police Station after the sacred objects went missing on July 31, 2002.
According to the JIT report, Sub-Inspector Muhammad Siddiqui carried out initial investigation after registration of the case under the supervision of the DSP-City Lahore.
The investigations revealed that three holy relics, including a piece of Naalain-i-Pak and Assa Mubarak, were sent to Brunei for exhibition on August 15, 2001, after the government’s approval.
After the exhibition on September 6, these “Tabburakats” (revered objects) were brought back and kept in Lahore’s Badshahi Mosque.
The JIT explained that on an average, 3,000 people visited the mosque every day. Amongst them were some regular visitors who were made part of the investigation.
Broken glass and a stone found at the scene were taken into custody. A police gazette was published to trace the unknown accused persons and 43 suspects were interrogated.
Fingerprint samples of Asssistant Sub-Inspector (ASI) Zulfiqar Ali and a visitor who had informed the duty officer about the incident and collected pieces of broken mirrors were sent to the bureau concerned for verification.
The result showed that nine fingerprints on the shattered glass were of ASI Zulfiqar and one of an unknown person. That print was sent to Nadra for identification, but investigations proved the suspect was innocent.
The JIT said that during the investigation, Hafeezur Rehman, a guard, and Jaan Muhammad were found guilty of negligence and lack of interest in their work. Proceedings were initiated against them and they were dismissed from service.
On January 10, 2003, a report was published in newspapers that the British police had found the stolen relics, the JIT recalled, adding that the source of the news item was Ghulam Sarwar Qadri, a former provincial minister for religious affairs. He was subjected to interrogation.
An inquiry conducted by the Chief Minister’s Inspection Team declared the statement of Ghulam Sarwar Qadri as groundless, the JIT said.
A notorious antique thief, Dr Muhammad Darawesh of Iran, was associated with the investigation in Lahore, but no clue was found to the stolen relics.
Fourteen special teams constituted so far have interrogated more than 50 suspects, conducted polygraph tests of nine suspects and visited 21 places where holy relics were seen, but the objects in question were not found.
On Wednesday (October 20), the seventh meeting of the JIT was convened to re-examine the evidence. It decided to look into the matter afresh.
It was decided to verify the paperwork for the approval under which the relics were sent to Brunei. Evidence regarding placing of the relics back in Badshahi Mosque after its exhibition in Brunei will also be collected and fresh interviews of the previous investigation officers will be conducted
The JIT further decided to interrogate the three persons who are reputed to have holy relics in the country.
Published in Dawn, October 23rd, 2021