• Four suspicious letters addressed to PM, Punjab CM found in Pindi letterbox
• Guidelines issued for postal staff to handle suspicious mail

ISLAMABAD: Ten more suspicious letters, some of them laced with “toxic” powder and threatening writings, addressed to judges of the higher courts as well as Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Punjab Chief Minister Maryam Nawaz were found by the authorities on Friday.

Sources said that of the 10 letters recovered on Friday, six were addressed to the Supreme Court judges, including Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa, one to Justice Ali Baqar Najafi of the Lahore High Court (LHC), two letters addressed to Maryam Nawaz and one to Mr Sharif.

The five other letters received at the Supreme Court were addressed to Justices Mohammad Ali Mazhar, Ayesha A. Malik, Syed Hasan Azhar Rizvi, Irfan Saadat, and Munib Akhtar.

The letter to the LHC judge was received by his personal staff, whereas the four other letters were detected by the staff of a post office in Dhoke Gujran, a locality in Rawalpindi. However, no chemical or powder was found in the envelopes recovered from the letterbox of the post office in Rawalpindi.

Police officers told Dawn that after getting information from the Supreme Court’s staff about the receipt of the suspicious letters, a police team reached the court and took the letters into custody for further legal action.

They said these letters were received in the routine mail to the top court’s Receipt and Issue (R&I) branch the same day as the letters to four other judges — Chief Justice Isa, Justice Athar Minallah, Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail, and Justice Aminud Din Khan — and were forwarded to the judges’ staff. However, these envelopes were opened on Friday.

The police officers said there was no need to register a fresh case after receiving five more letters; it would be mentioned in a supplementary statement in the FIR already registered at the Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD).

The FIR, containing Section 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act and Section 507 of the Pakistan Penal Code, was lodged on the complaint of Mohammad Iqbal, the duty in-charge at the Supreme Court’s R&I branch.

The police said it had collected a sample of powder from all five letters and would send it to the National Forensic Science Laboratory, Islamabad, for toxicological and chemical tests and analyses.

“Welcome to Bacillus anthracis!!!” were the words written in the letters, which also contained a photo of a human skull.

Bacillus anthracis is a bacterium that causes anthrax, a rare but serious infectious disease that affects people and animals.

LHC judge

Justice Ali Baqar Najafi has become the sixth judge of the LHC to receive the suspicious letter. The staff of the senior judge found a letter during the scrutiny of daily mail received at the high court. The staff did not open the envelope and alerted the police authorities who took possession of the letter and handed it over to the CTD for investigation.

Before this, five judges of the LHC, including Chief Justice Malik Shahzad Ahmed Khan, Justice Shujaat Ali Khan, Justice Shahid Bilal Hassan, Justice Aalia Neelum and Justice Abid Aziz Sheikh had received threatening letters with suspicious powder.

An initial investigation by the security and forensic experts revealed that the letters sent to the LHC judges did not contain anthrax or any other toxic powder, rather “carbohydrates having arsenic traces”. However, the authorities have not so far traced the alleged dispatcher(s).

The security officials are using the surveillance cameras of the Punjab Safe City Authority to trace the dispatchers of the suspicious letters. The home department and other agencies have decided that the judges’ staff should be provided with scanners to scan suspicious letters or envelopes before opening.

The department has also decided to give necessary training to all LHC judges’ staff, equipping them with gadgets to handle suspicious letters and articles in an safe manner.

Suspicious letters found in Rawalpindi

The four suspicious letters add­ressed to the prime minister, the Punjab chief minister and the CJP were found in a letter box outside the post office of Dhoke Gujran area of Naseer­abad Police Station in Rawalpindi.

According to the sources, the letter box had been opened by the staff for collection of mail as per the routine on Thursday night. There was no address or any identity of the senders on the envelopes.

A senior police officer said the post office staff, as per the policy, informed the higher officials of the postal department after finding the suspicious letters, after which experts reached the spot and inspected the letters.

He said there was a newspaper clipping in the letter in which an appeal was made to abolish the food authority. “There was nothing serious, only fake news,” he said.

The official in charge of the post office later told the police that he did not know as to who had dropped these envelopes in the letter box and at what time. The staff came to know about it only after they sorted out the mail, he told the police.

Guidelines for postal staff

Meanwhile, the office of the Director General Pakistan Post on Friday issued instructions to its staff regarding the handling of mail addressed to high-profile personalities.

The office directed all postmasters general to circulate an alert to all offices countrywide to take due care and be vigilant while handling mail addressed to high-profile offices in the wake of the suspected letters being delivered to the higher judiciary.

Moreover, it stressed that the safety and security of the postal operational staff is the prime responsibility and the first priority.

Besides, every necessary mat­erial which is required in such circumstances i.e., gloves, masks etc., should be provided to the staff involved in handling mail, and the mail articles brought in post offices after clearance of letter boxes should be carefully handled, the instructions issued by the office said.

If any unattended and suspected material is observed in the mail articles, it should immediately be reported to the supervisor on duty, local administration and the head of the unit and circle concerned.

Staff posted at counters and delivery post offices should also be directed to remain vigilant while booking, sorting, transmitting and delivering mail, it said.

It said the mail for the judges of Supreme Court, high courts, diplomats and other high-profile personalities should be examined carefully and should be delivered in the R&I section of the relevant office.

The directives have been issued to the postmasters general in Lahore, Multan, Rawal­pindi, Karachi, Hyderabad, Islamabad, Peshawar, Quetta and Muzaffarabad.

Wajih Ahmad Sheikh in Lahore also contributed to this reoprt

Published in Dawn, April 6th, 2024

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