LAHORE, June 24: On the fifth death anniversary of Omar Asghar Khan on Monday (today), his family members wonder in sheer dejection if his killers will ever be identified and brought to justice.
He was found dead in mysterious circumstances at the residence of his in-laws in Karachi on June 25, 2002.
His father air marshal Asghar Khan and widow Samina Khan feel enormously frustrated not merely because they have lost Omar at a time when he was rising to political stardom but also because the regime, which took him on its cabinet of technocrats before going for the quasi-political and democratic dispensation, has behaved in a manner as if it is under no obligation to expose the reason and culprits behind his murder which remains shrouded in a mystery till today.
The extent of official apathy towards the issue could be gauged from the fact that even a police and judicial inquiry have not so far been conducted to make the circumstances of Omar’s death public.
Even the Sindh police took no time in proclaiming it suicide without carrying out a probe.
Omar marched out of the cabinet of technocrats in 2001 and launched the Awami Jamhoori Party as a middle class political organisation comprising progressive and liberal elements and was an instant success. Mostly attracting educated people, professionals and rights activists, the party aimed at contributing towards the national polity to bring about a radical change in the system and governance.
Within one year, Omar’s party started making meaningful undulation in the country’s power politics and many eyebrows were raised on the young organisation taking big strides.
Samina, who later took over Omar’s unrealised dream of the Sungi Development Foundation in Abbotabad, was here the other day to participate in a workshop.
She narrated the story of the indifference that the government had been showing so far even in holding a judicial inquiry into the murder of her husband.
She said when repeated requests failed to move the authorities for initiating a probe in the months following the murder, air marshal Asghar Khan managed to get an independent inquiry conducted into the killing of his son. He got the help of a former NWFP inspector-general of police, Gohar Zaman, who was seized with almost no evidence to proceed.
The only material that was provided to him was by the Sindh police and that was not sufficient either. Yet, he reached a definite conclusion that Omar was first suffocated to death and then his body hanged.
When the findings of the private inquiry were made public in September 2002, the retired chief of the Pakistan Air Force handed its copies to the federal and NWFP governments with the request that a judicial inquiry should now be initiated and the responsibility of Omar’s assassination fixed. The provincial government took another year in appointing an additional sessions judge to conduct the probe who took about six months in recording evidence and examining witnesses.
But, one morning the judge just laid off his hands saying he could proceed no further. He gave no cogent reasons for this.
After about two months another judicial officer of the same status was appointed to take up the probe who too, after around seven months, abandoned the inquiry midway without a cogent explanation.
The whole exercise took about two years and the air marshal, Samina and all other concerned people felt justified in believing that their doubt that certain intelligence agencies were involved in removing Omar from the political scene, were true.
“We have lost everything, even the hope that we will ever get justice”, Samina said in despair when this correspondent asked about the future plans she and the family had regarding resolution of the enigma of Omar’s death cause. She rather wants not to ask the government for another judicial inquiry.
“We do not want a repetition of what has happened to the family of Hammad Raza, the deputy registrar of the Supreme Court, who was also killed in mysterious circumstances and the police arrested a few giving it the colour of a dacoity bid. We do no want any more scapegoats”, was what Samina said.