LAHORE: Police investigating the murder of Punjab Bar Council (PbBC) secretary who was sprayed with bullets on his way back home late on Saturday night have found strong possibilities that the ‘targeted killing’ is linked to his struggle to expose ‘fake lawyers’ by pursuing legal action against them.

As the assassination of 50-year-old lawyer, Mohammad Ashraf Rahi, in Lahore months after the killing of Sindh Bar Council Secretary Irfan Ali Mehr in Karachi sent a wave of resentment among the legal fraternity, the Punjab chief minister on Sunday ordered early arrest of the attackers and sought a report from Lahore police chief. Initial investigations showed that over 100 fake degree cases of lawyers had been exposed and Mr Rahi was pursuing legal course of action against them, the Lahore Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) told Dawn on Sunday.

“We are shifting our all focus towards the fake degree scam, as Ashraf Rahi had received serious life threats for leading criminal proceedings against the fraudsters [in legal fraternity],” he said.

DIG Investigations Kamran Adil had been assigned the responsibility of supervising the investigations into the murder case, he said, adding that a police team spent hours in Punjab Safe City Authority office to closely examine the footage of cameras installed in and around the crime scene to identify the two attackers who sped away on a motorbike and trace their movement.

He said the police investigators were hopeful to trace the suspects.

Declaring it a high-profile murder case, other officials said there were strong possibilities that the gun attack had been carried out due to the senior lawyer’s active involvement in leading legal proceedings and actions against the ‘fake’ members of the community.

While requesting anonymity, a police official told Dawn the police held meetings with close relatives of the deceased and some senior representatives and office-bearers of the lawyers’ associations.

The information gleaned during the course of investigation unveiled that Mr Rahi enjoyed good repute not only among his relatives but also in the legal fraternity, the official said. “Though we also found out a domestic issue of the deceased, it was not of serious nature that needs to be investigated by the police,” he said.

After discussing all the factors at a meeting, senior police officers were unanimous on the point that the PBC secretary’s murder be investigated keeping in view the perspective of fake LLB degree cases.

In 2020, he said, the PBC had sent 230 LLB degrees to Punjab University for verification. Of them, the PBC cancelled licences of some lawyers in the light of the report of the PU department of examinations when it declared the degrees ‘bogus’.

Sharing details of the gun attack, he said the senior lawyer was gunned down in Lahore’s Badami Bagh area. Two armed motorcyclists ambushed his car when he was going back home from his office, located at the Fan Road, and sprayed him with a volley of bullets. Mr Rahi died on the spot.

Earlier in December 2021, Sindh Bar Council Secretary Irfan Ali Mehr was also murdered in a gun attack near his house in the Gulistan-i-Jauhar area of Karachi.

Taking notice of the murder, Punjab Chief Minister Hamza Shehbaz sought a report from the CCPO and ordered him to ensure early arrest of the attackers. Expressing his heartfelt sympathy and sorrow with the family members of the slain lawyer, the chief minister assured them of provision of justice at the earliest.

Published in Dawn, July 25th, 2022

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