LAHORE: A high-level investigation into the cross-border drug smuggling scam has taken a surprise turn when an inquiry panel detected many “illegal” properties worth billions of rupees, allegedly belonging to the accused police officer, who was termed an underworld don in uniform.
Headed by the Lahore SSP, Internal Accountability (IA), the three-member panel of the police officers was conducting a departmental inquiry against the accused, ex-deputy superintendent of police (DSP) Mazhar Iqbal, who was heading the Anti-Narcotics Investigation Unit (ANIU) of Lahore police when Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF) unearthed a racket of cross-border drug smuggling through drones.
The ANF had booked Mazhar in the last week of August for allegedly taking Rs75 million bribe from a drug smuggler, Ahmad, who was also involved in cross-border smuggling of Ice drug.
As per the ANF, the ex-police officer had recovered 35kg drugs and three cars from the residence of Ahmad, but released him after lodging a case of 450 grams of drugs only.
The suspect headed Anti-Narcotics Investigation Unit
The ANF had arrested another suspect, Fiaz, who told the investigators that he was a front man of Mazhar, who was involved in cross-border drug smuggling for many years.
During the probe, an official source said, the inquiry panel found criminal record of Mazhar, exposing the system that had been patronising him.
The source said Mazhar Iqbal was dismissed from service six times since 1994 and suspended from service 45 times for his alleged involvement in illegal activities, mostly related to drug trafficking cases.
Initially, the source said, the worth of the alleged illegal properties of Mazhar alias Mazhari was estimated at over Rs2 billion.
The inquiry panel also traced 13 criminal cases lodged against the former officer since 1994, registered with Factory Area, Ravi Road, Bhatti Gate, Lytton Road, Model Town, South Cantt and Tibbi City police stations.
Similarly, five criminal cases were registered against him by the Anti-Corruption Establishment (ACE) Lahore.
In addition, a drug case was lodged against the ex-DSP by the ANF in 2007, the official said, adding that he has been allegedly patronising notorious gangsters, pickpockets and drug smugglers in the provincial capital.
The official said as per findings of the probe panel, Mazhar was living in a 4-kanal villa in Defence Housing Authority Lahore and owned seven more houses in the DHA.
The panel also traced 125 costly cars purchased by him during his police service in Lahore.
The source said an ANF team was separately working on the assets he had made during his service in Lahore.
He said a former CCPO of Lahore had appointed Mazhar as head of the ANIU in Lahore despite having criminal record.
There were reports that Mazhar enjoyed backing of some senior police officers in Punjab, besides some key political figures.
To a question, the official source said, the suspect went underground after cancellation of his bail in the case lodged by the ANF.
The probe is underway, he says, expecting unearthing of more illegal properties owned by the former police official, who still has “sympathisers” in the department.
Published in Dawn, September 13th, 2023