• Punjab IG says ATC decision to be challenged, claims to have ‘enough evidence’ against PTI leaders
• Forensic report claims ex-minister was present at corps commander’s house at time of attack; police trace 170 more suspects via WhatsApp messages
• Hammad says his father ‘taken away’

LAHORE: A day after an anti-terrorism court in Lahore discharged PTI leader Dr Yasmin Rashid in a case regarding the attack on the corps commander’s house, Punjab police chief Dr Usman Anwar on Sunday called the former health minister a ‘key planner’ of May 9 attacks and announced challenging the ATC decision in the high court.

Addressing a hurriedly called press conference at the Central Police Office (CPO) along with Lahore police chief Bilal Siddique Kamyana, SSP investigation Dr Anoosh Masood Chaudhry, and SSP Imran Kishwar, the police chief said that attacks on Lahore Corps Commander House and GHQ were “well-planned by the PTI leaders”.

According to some police experts, the presser was called to express the reaction of the Punjab police to the ATC decision which discharged the PTI central Punjab president in the corps commander house attack case.

“We detected 41 calls of the PTI leader Dr Yasmin Rashid, among other party leaders, which were enough to produce as evidence in a court of law to prove them as planners and perpetrators of the attacks on the military installation,” the IG said.

He also played the video clips of Dr Rashid on a TV screen wherein, the IG claimed, she was “planning the attack on Jinnah House”.

Dr Usman also discussed the role of other PTI key leaders, including Hammad Azhar, Mian Aslam Iqbal and Murad Raas, saying police also traced the call record of these suspects to “prove their direct involvement in the attacks” on military installations.

“We are confident enough to prove in a court of law that these PTI leaders were not innocent and that the attacks were not carried out all of a sudden in reaction to the arrest of the PTI chairman,” he said.

He said they would challenge the ATC decision to release Dr Rashid and Hammad Azhar, saying police would present evidence that they had been making calls to protesters for attacks on the military installations.

“Dr Yasmin Rashid is nominated in [a] statement of [a] complainant and eyewitnesses recorded under Section 161 of CrPC [Criminal Procedure Code], but the learned judge ignored the same while discharging her from [the] case,” an informed source told Dawn on condition of anonymity.

“The judge wanted the name of the accused in the supplementary statement, which has no evidentiary value in the eyes of law; on the other hand, Dr Yasmin Rashid is nominated in statements recorded under Section 161 of CrPC, which is sufficient proof of her involvement in [the] case,” the source claimed in a comment on the case against the PTI leader.

Forensic test

A report of a forensic analysis issued by the Punjab police confirmed the presence of Dr Rashid outside the corps commander’s house. The report said video and audio clips were sent to the Punjab Forensic Laboratory for analysis which established the PTI leader’s presence outside the Jinnah House at the time of the attack. Her presence was also proved through a photogrammetry test, the report added.

“After forensic comparison analysis, it was concluded that the facial features of the accused person [Dr Yasmin Rashid] seen in the reference images and videos contained in the DVD (item#6) matched with one of the accused persons seen in the videos mentioned above at serial number 1 and 3 contained in the USB (item#5),” the report said.

‘215 calls made to incite mob’

The IG claimed that a total of 215 calls were made to incite the mob that attacked the military installation in Lahore. Out of them, 41 calls were made by Dr Yasmin Rashid, 75 by Mahmoodur Rasheed, 50 by Ijaz Chaudhry, 16 by Mian Aslam Iqbal, 23 by Murad Raas, and 10 calls by PTI leader Hammad Azhar.

He said 50 calls from Mianwali were linked to the five top leaders of the PTI regarding the attack on the Mianwali airbase. Similarly, 88 calls were detected from around the GHQ on May 8 and May 9, the IG Punjab said. He added said police have identified 708 suspects allegedly involved in the attack on the corps commander’s house; 125 have been arrested so far.

The police investigators have also traced 170 more attackers through WhatsApp groups and messages which were accessed through mobile phones of those arrested. “These 170 suspects were present in the Jinnah House at that time,” the IG said.

Action social media activists

During the press conference, the police chief criticised the social media influencers of PTI and claimed that they were sharing misleading information about the torture of party workers, particularly female activists, which warranted action by the FIA.

He alleged that they were misleading the public by “sharing old video clips and photos to defame” law enforcement agencies, making serious allegations that police were torturing the arrested workers.

They even alleged that female workers were harassed in the jails, he said, adding that due to the propaganda against the police, they have no option but to ask the FIA to proceed against them. He said a “malicious” social media campaign was launched, accusing the law enforcement agencies of killing 40 PTI workers. The number of killings as per these accounts was later reduced to 25, he added.

He said the social media activists had also accused the police of killing a suspect in custody who had stolen a peacock from the corps commander’s house. The police later shared the suspect’s video statement to refute the allegations, Dr Usman said, adding that many of the video clips and photos shared on social media were related to the incidents from 2019 and 2021.

The IG said that attackers on May 9 injured several police officers and other personnel of the police, leaving many of them with leg and arm fractures.

Late in night, Mr Azhar posted a tweet, saying his father Mian Azhar, the former governor of Punjab, has been “taken away”.

“My father, Mian Muhammad Azhar, 82 years of age with multiple health conditions, has just been taken by police and some unknown people to an undisclosed location,” he wrote.

Published in Dawn, June 5th, 2023

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