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Suspicions grow of foul play

January 05, 2011

Governor Punjab Salman Taseer’s assassin Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri. — Photo by Reuters

ISLAMABAD/LAHORE, Jan 5: The assassination of Punjab Governor Salman Taseer kept the nation riveted on Wednesday after doubts were raised that it was political conspiracy and not an act of a lone fanatic. “Every aspect is being considered,” said an official in reply to a question about the investigation.

The suspicion grew because a number of officials confirmed that Malik Mumtaz Qadri, the guard who had gunned down Mr Taseer, was posted out of the Rawalpindi police’s special branch about 18 months ago after a report by then Regional Police Officer Nasir Khan Durrani described him as a ‘security threat’.

Dawn has learnt that Qadri’s senior called him a security threat because of his extremist views and one officer had recommended that he should not be deputed for security of important people.

Investigators have sought a report from the Rawalpindi police.  The officials said that senior police officers should be held responsible for including Qari in the squad for security of the governor.

A team comprising CIA personnel has been constituted to investigate the background of Qadri. They have started collecting details and particulars about the murderer and getting information from his neighbours, relatives and friends.

The team is also interrogating eight personnel of the Elite Force who did not stop Qadri when he opened fire at the governor.

The investigators are of the opinion that the security guards’ failure to stop their colleague strengthens the suspicions of a conspiracy.

According to the preliminary investigation, the killer fired bullets in three phases. But, surprisingly, other guards standing beside the governor did not try to overpower their colleague.

“It makes no sense that personnel who were on duty did not retaliate despite carrying active firearms,” an official told Dawn.

“This is why the perception that the rest of the guards had some inkling about Qadri’s intention is gaining strength.”

The investigators also picked up Mohrar and Naib-Mohrar of the Elite Force who had taken the decision to depute Qadri with the governor.

Islamabad Chief Commissioner Tariq Mehmud Pirzada has constituted a joint team to investigate the incident.

It comprises DIG (Operations) Bani Ameen, SSP Tahir Alam Khan, SP (Investigation) Tahir Ayub Khan, SP CID Gulfam Nasir, Kohsar police station SHO Inspector Hakim Khan and officials from intelligence agencies, including the ISI and IB.

Legal proceedings have also been initiated. The Islamabad police, through the chief commissioner, have requested the law secretary to appoint a lawyer of repute as special public prosecutor to initiate legal course.

SON SPEAKS UP An FIR was registered at the Kohsar police station on a complaint lodged by Shehryar Taseer, a son of the slain governor.

He said in the complaint that his father had his own point of view on important issues. Because of this he had received several threats from different religious and political groups.

Mr Shehryar said Qadri had murdered his father with cooperation and willingness of religious and political groups.

The Punjab government also formed an inquiry committee comprising Special Branch’s Additional IG Nasir Khan Durrani, Additional IG Mushtaq Ahmad Sukhera and DIG Shoaib Dastgir.

Mr Durrani, who heads the committee, told Dawn that they would identify loopholes, shortcomings and lapses in the security protocol.

This committee will also grill the Elite Force personnel for their inaction after Qadri opened fire.

Mr Durrani said the committee would finalise its report in a couple of days. Giving the other side of picture, a senior police officer said the situation could have become confusing for investigators and the government if Qari’s colleagues had killed him.

He said that the sub-machinegun used in the murder also serves as a training tool by Elite Force. Recruits receive training for six months in the Elite Training School on Badian Road, Lahore.

It includes a VVIP protection course in which they learn how to protect VVIPs from front, back, right and left sides on crowd and rescue them on critical occasions.

The training also enables the personnel to fire excellently their target using light and heavy weapons from 50, 100, 200 and 500 metres.

The officer said that an Elite Force policeman got Rs3,000 as extra monthly allowance after completing his training.