KARACHI: Family members of slain Naqeeb Ullah Mehsud and civil society representatives on Sunday gathered in front of the Karachi Press Club to demand strict punishment for former SSP Rao Anwar and his team, as an antiterrorism court (ATC) is set to pronounce its verdict in the 2018 high-profile staged encounter case on Monday (today).
The court took five years to conclude the trial in the matter, which had triggered widespread condemnation and debates on social media about fake encounters in Karachi, particularly by then SSP-Malir Rao Anwar.
Former SSP Rao Anwar, along with his around two-dozen subordinates, has been charged with the killing of Naqeeb and three others after dubbing them militants linked to the “Islamic State and Taliban” in a fake encounter on Jan 13, 2018.
On Sunday, Naqeeb’s brother Sher Alam, lawyer and rights activist Jibran Nasir, PTI MNA Siafur Rehman and others staged a demonstration and demanded that strict punishment be handed down to the former SSP and his team for killing young Naqeeb and three other captives in the fake encounter.
“We had expressed our apprehensions two years ago, and we are still repeating the same,” said Jibran Nasir, who is representing the legal heirs of Naqeeb.
He said they had been expressing such apprehension ever since prosecution witnesses of the case, who were police officials, had started retracting their original statements against Rao Anwar and his team.
ATC set to announce judgement today; trial of extrajudicial killing case takes five years to complete
“It is important to highlight that the police had shown it as an encounter while then DSP Qamar had made fake entries in the official documents, about which [evidence of those entries] the prosecution claimed ‘had been lost’ and did not produce it in court,” he said.
He also said the eyewitnesses, who were present at the time of kidnapping of Naqeeb and others, and those in whose presence the captives were taken to a desolate place where they had seen Rao Anwar on the spot of the fake encounter, had also retracted their initial statements during the trial.
“Then, the call data record (CDR) and geo-fencing of the cell phones of the undertrial police officials was crucial evidence to prove their presence at the crime scene, but one expert told the trial court that they were present at the place of staged encounter while another said that they were not,” he said, referring to the contradictions in the prosecution’s evidence.
Mr Nasir regretted that the trial court had dismissed their request for calling an independent expert to give his opinion on the analysis of geo-fencing and CDR reports.
He added that they challenged the ATC’s dismissal order before the Sindh High Court, but the trial court reserved the matter for final judgement before the high court passed any order on the plea to call the geo-fencing expert.
“Most importantly, the seven police officials led by then SHO Amanullah Marwat, who had carried out the fake encounter, had deliberately been shown as absconders and not been arrested and produced before the court to face the trial,” claimed the lawyer.
“This suggests the prosecution deliberately weakened the case as there were contradictions created in the testimonies of the witnesses [police officials] who had given statements against Rao Anwar and others before a joint investigation team. Later on, if they retracted their statements then disciplinary action should have been taken against them, but it has not happened. Rather they [officials] were given lucrative postings in Karachi, which they had desired to have,” he alleged.
“We have legitimate apprehensions because the court will decide the case on the basis of whatever evidence the prosecution had produced before it,” he said.
However, he declared that Rao Anwar was facing multiple charges, including kidnapping and murdering Naqeeb and three others, foisting fake recoveries of arms and explosives on them.
Published in Dawn, January 23th, 2023