Forced disappearances, Naqeebullah & Rao Anwar

The issue of forced disappearances once again came to light this week with the arrest of Rao Anwar, former SSP of Malir, in the Naqeebullah Mehsud case. That it “took a street movement, the insistence of the Supreme Court and the outright arrogance of those harbouring Rao Anwar, the Karachi police officer who had become a fugitive from the law after being cited in the extrajudicial killing of Naqeebullah Mehsud, to finally ensure he ended up in custody” speaks to the abysmal conditions of the Pakistan’s law and order establishment.

The current case relates to the case of Naqeebullah “a young man from Waziristan, trying to eke out a living in Karachi, was picked up while entertaining a couple of friends over a cup of tea in Karachi’s Sohrab Goth area in early January this year. Some 10 days later, he was shot dead allegedly in an encounter with the police. Police, most notably, Rao Anwar had dubbed Naqeebullah a Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan militant but when the young Mehsud’s friends and family took to the social media and then the streets to dispute the claim and also spell out how he was picked up before being killed some 10 days later, a storm started to brew.”

Protests by young Pakhtun activists forced the Supreme Court to take notice “after it became apparent what had actually transpired. With the statements of the two friends, who’d been picked up with Mehsud but, thankfully, released, it appeared like an open-and-shut case.” When “when the Supreme Court asked police and intelligence agencies on more than one occasion to find and produce Rao Anwar they continued to dodge the issue. However, when the Supreme Court insisted angrily, resistance started to weaken and CCTV evidence appeared which led to (via the Nadra database) the identification of the agency personnel who’d accompanied the police officer to the airport some 10 days after the murder of Naqeebullah Mehsud and in their supreme self-confidence made no effort to hide their faces.”

According to an editorial in Dawn: “Clearly escorted by the Islamabad police and the anti-terrorism police, there has been no explanation offered for where he arrived from and how he came to be in the presence of a significant law-enforcement detail. Mr Anwar’s mysterious disappearance is no ordinary matter. He is the prime suspect in a murder that has captured the nation’s attention and spawned an unprecedented protest movement. No less a figure than the chief justice ordered his arrest, but for two months no intelligence, security or law-enforcement agency in the country was able to inform the Supreme Court of Mr Anwar’s whereabouts.Yet, the fugitive policeman was able to have letters delivered to the Supreme Court, and frequently communicated with the media. If it was not complicity on the part of some state elements, then it was gross incompetence by the security and intelligence apparatus that allowed Mr Anwar to evade official arrest for two months. The public deserves to know more.”

Former editor of Dawn, Abbas Nasir notes, “Reporters and TV viewers were amazed at the manner in which Rao Anwar came to the Supreme Court — in a car that was driven through a gate which, reporters say, does not even open for the attorney general of Pakistan. That it was not a sudden appearance but one that was orchestrated was equally evident from the presence of a dozen or so policemen, including anti-terrorism commandos, who surrounded Rao Anwar when he alighted from his car and ushered him into the courtroom.”

The main issue however is that of forced disappearances and summary executions. There “seems to be no commitment or effort on the part of any institution to undertaking judicial reform which is the only route to ensuring the provision of justice at a very basic level and protecting the life and liberty of citizens. And, when viewed against the battle the country is waging against terrorist groups, the legislative and judicial framework appears wholly inadequate. Where extrajudicial killings and disappearances are, and should be, repugnant and unacceptable in any civilised society, the system finds itself incapable of prosecuting and sentencing those guilty of heinous crimes. Here lies my worry and concern. One Rao Anwar can be taken out of commissioning for a while perhaps but the pressure and, to some warped minds, the rationale remains to ‘take out’ those considered guilty. Such a situation and attitude will always lead to bloody miscarriages of justice.”

To learn more about Rao Anwar please see this Dawn expose

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