Two police personnel were remanded in police custody on Friday while Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah ordered the suspension of Courts SSP Azam Durrani after it emerged that a man accused in two high-profile kidnapping cases of Bisma Saleem and Dua Mangi had escaped.
According to the first information report (FIR) of the incident, Zohaib Ali Qureshi, one of the accused in the 2019 kidnappings, was presented before the court on Thursday. After attending the hearing, Qureshi and police personnel accompanying him stopped at a mall where the accused "wanted to shop" but he fled from there.
East SSP Qamar Raza Jiskhani confirmed that the accused was in police's custody and was presented before the court in the kidnapping cases on Thursday, before he fled from a shopping mall at Karachi's Tariq Road.
Subsequently, the Ferozabad police registered an FIR against court police constable Habib Zafar and head constable Mohammed Naveed for their alleged negligence that led to Qureshi's escape. Qureshi has also been nominated in the FIR.
The FIR, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, was registered on behalf of Assistant Sub-Inspector Mohammed Khalid on Friday under sections 223 (escape from confinement or custody negligently suffered by public servant), 224 (resistance or obstruction by a person to his lawful apprehension ) and 225-A (omission to apprehend, or sufferance of escape, on part of a public servant, in cases not otherwise provided for) of the Pakistan Penal Code.
According to the FIR, Naveed told police that Qureshi was presented before the civil and judicial magistrate (East) at the City Courts on Thursday and the judge had fixed the next hearing on February 9.
The FIR further quoted the head constable as saying that after the hearing, he had travelled with Qureshi to Tariq Road in a private car, where the accused told him that he wanted to do some shopping at Dolmen Mall. Head constable Naveed said Qureshi went inside the mall and "fled after deceiving me".
In the CCTV footage from the mall, available with Dawn.com, a man, identified as Qureshi, is seen roaming around the mall's exit for a few seconds before leaving with shopping bags in hand. He is wearing a jacket over a blue shalwar kameez and donning a cap as well.
According to the FIR, after police received information about Qureshi's escape, they rushed to the spot and arrested Naveed. Moreover, it said, Naveed told police that Zafar had taken other accused in the kidnapping cases to Central Jail.
Zafar was standing outside the jail when police reached there and arrested him, the FIR said, adding that a police party also went to Qureshi's residence in Steel Town for his arrest, but no progress had been made on that front until now.
According to Ferozabad Station House Officer (SHO) Arshad Janjua, Naveed, who is the prime suspect in Qureshi’s escape, told police during the initial probe that he had developed a "relationship of trust" with Qureshi as he would usually take the accused to court.
SHO Janjua said Naveed told police that he believed Qureshi would never "betray" him, adding that other aspects of the case were also being probed.
Naveed and Zafar were presented before a judicial magistrate on Friday and remanded in police custody till Monday.
The judge has also sought a report from the investigating officer at the next hearing.
Meanwhile, the Sindh chief minister took notice of Qureshi's escape and ordered the immediate suspension of the Courts SSP.
According to a statement issued by the Chief Minister's Office, he also directed the Sindh inspector general of police and home secretary to take "strict action" in the case. He further instructed that a police party be formed for Qureshi's immediate arrest.
Bisma, said to be a blogger and make-up artist, was abducted outside her home in DHA by armed men travelling in a car on May 12, 2019. She had returned home a week later allegedly following the payment of ransom.
Later, Dua, a law student, was also kidnapped from the Bukhari Commercial area of the DHA on November 30, 2019, by four gunmen, who also shot at and wounded her friend Haris Fatah Soomro as he put up resistance. A week later, she also returned home after alleged ransom payment.
Police had arrested Qureshi along with another accused, Muzaffar alias Moozi, on March 19, 2020, in connection with the kidnappings.
An anti-terrorism court had indicted him and four others in the kidnapping cases in January 2021.