News Analysis |
The notorious former SSP Malir Rao Anwar finally appeared before the Supreme Court (SC) on Wednesday after absconding for almost 2 months in the Naqeebullah Mehsud encounter case. He was later arrested on the orders of the court. Anwar arrived at the SC in a white corolla, wearing a surgical mask, escorted by the police. The hearing was going on inside the SC at that time. The three-member SC bench headed by the Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) resumed the hearing of the case when Anwar arrived.
“You used to act brave. Where had you been all this time? ,” inquired the CJP Mian Saqib Nisar. “You went into hiding. Do you not trust the courts?” he added. Anwar replied simply that he was innocent. “You aren’t doing anyone a favor by appearing before the court,” the vexed CJP told Anwar. He further stated that the letters written by Anwar to the SC were not befitting. The court later ordered Anwar’s bank accounts, CNIC, and passport to be unblocked, and his salary to be paid so his children don’t face any financial problem.
Anwar’s counsel requested the SC to grant him a protective bail. The request was rejected and the court ordered the police to take Anwar into custody. He also requested the SC to form a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) consisting of members from intelligence agencies: ISI and IB, stating that he did not trust the Sindh police. This request was also turned down by the SC who ordered the formation of a 5 member JIT headed by the Sindh Additional Inspector General (AIG) Aftab Pathan.
The apex court ordered the protection of Anwar in the police custody and asked the IG Sindh A.D Khawaja to ensure his safety. The CJP took a sworn oath from Naqeebullah’s family that they will not harm Anwar and dismissed the session. He was arrested by the Islamabad police afterwards and will be later handed over to the Sindh police and transferred to Karachi.
Read more: Supreme Court fails to lure Rao Anwar
Who was Naqeebullah Mehsud?
Naseembullah Mehsud, who was commonly known Naqeebullah, was a 27 year old from South Waziristan. He was murdered in a police encounter on 13th January in Shah Latif Town, Karachi. The police raid which killed Naqeebullah was headed by former SSP Malir Rao Anwar who claimed that the suspects were militants of TTP, but family members of Naqeeb rejected the claim and demanded an investigation against the police. The Supreme Court also took a ‘suo-moto’ notice of the case.
The extrajudicial killing of Naqeebullah by police officials sparked a huge outcry on social and electronic media. He was a model on the social media website Facebook with a significant following. Anwar has allegedly committed around 444 encounters; this one came to light because the victim was relatively well known.
The murder also sparked a number of protests throughout the country against police atrocities. It has already been established by a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) that Naqeebullah was not part of any terrorist or militant organization. Civil society activists severely protested against his killings and demanded that the murderers of Naqeebullah and all other victims of extrajudicial killings should be brought to justice.
Developments in the case
Former SSP Malir Rao Anwar had been on the run for the past couple of months and was last seen on 23rd January in the Benazir Bhutto International Airport while trying to flee the country. His name was then placed on the Exit Control List (ECL). On 14th March, he had requested the Supreme Court (SC) to unfreeze his assets which were frozen on 3rd March by the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) for his repeated failure to appear before the court in a letter addressed to the CJP.
The CJP had received another letter from Anwar on 13th February, in which he claimed that he was innocent since he was not present at the site of the encounter. Anwar had also alleged that he was being framed by some senior police officers. After this letter, the SC had granted him a protective bail to appear before the court in 3 days but despite assurances, he failed to show up.
The apex court had also issued a contempt of court notice to Rao Anwar for his failure to comply with the court’s orders. On 19th March, the CJP had warned that anyone found facilitating Anwar to evade justice would face dire consequences. The innocence of Naqeebullah has already been established in the case but the conviction of Anwar is yet to be determined. Sindh Police has claimed that they have captured Anwar’s accomplices in the police department and the investigation is ongoing.
Read more: Rao Anwar’s name placed on Exit Control List
Where was Anwar hiding?
Anwar has not revealed the details of his hiding to the Supreme Court and it is not yet sure if the SC will push him to do it. Some media commentators believe that whoever was hiding Anwar must have gotten perturbed after the SC threatened his facilitators with dire consequences. Anwar is accused of committing 444 extrajudicial murders; his stature as senior police officers doesn’t oblige him to kill so many people in encounters since it doesn’t serve his interests. It is believed that the former SSP was pressed to do this by political groups to serve their own purposes. If he reveals their names, it will prove disastrous for some political parties heading into the 2018 general election.s