ISLAMABAD, Oct 30: The government for the first time on Monday admitted to having detained Rashid Rauf on suspicion of masterminding a plot to blow up US-bound trans-Atlantic airliners in London.

Out of hundreds of missing people, who have allegedly been detained by secret agencies, Rashid Rauf is the only one about whom the government confessed to having kept in its custody.

A spokesman of the ministry of interior said that Rashid Rauf was arrested on August 10, 2006 by law-enforcement agencies (LEAs) and booked under sections 419, 420, 468, 417 of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC). He was presented in the court of competent jurisdiction which granted his physical remand. On completion of his physical remand, he was remanded to judicial custody by the same court. Currently, Rashid Rauf is detained under the Security of Pakistan Act, the spokesman added.

The spokesman has defended the government position regarding the arrest and subsequent detention and brushed aside the impression that his keeping in custody had been illegal.

However, the ministry clarification falls far short of stating the facts as there has been no mention of the court before which Mr Rashid was presented. This response has come after his relatives moved the Lahore High Court against his disappearance for several months. The case is still pending in the Rawalpindi Bench of the superior court.

Justice Abdul Shakoor Paracha has issued notices to the director general, Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), Intelligence Bureau (IB), secretary interior, foreign office, and the director general, National Crises Management Cell, to confirm whether Rashid had been in their custody and if so why.

Zahoor Akhtar, a relative of the detained, under Article 199 of the Constitution, in a petition pending in the Rawalpindi Bench of the superior court has argued that Rashid Rauf was picked up by agencies from Bahawalpur about three months back.

Since then he has been in the custody of these agencies but his family members had no knowledge about his whereabouts or the charges against him.

It has been further stated in the petition that Rashid was totally innocent and that he had nothing to do with the London terror plot. He should, therefore, be set free immediately after disclosing the outcome of the investigations against him, the petition says.

The petitioner, in his petition, has argued that Rashid Rauf had been in London but he came to Pakistan in April, 2002, about four years before the incident. Rashid has nothing to do with the London plot and his arrest and continuous detention is totally illegal and in contravention of basic human rights of citizens.

Lawyer Hashmat Ali Habib is representing the petitioner. The court will take up the case on November 6, 2006.

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