‘Staged Encounter Specialist’ Rao Anwar’s Arrest and the Killing Fields of Karachi

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1. Who was hiding Rao Anwar? 2. How he got to the Supreme Court? 3. Why no handcuffs were put on him? 4. Will case be limited to Naqeebullah’s murder or all encounters will be investigated?

Former rogue Sindh Police official Rao Anwar, who is being investigated for his suspected involvement in the extrajudicial killing of Naqeebullah Mehsud in a staged ‘encounter’ in the port city of Karachi, was arrested Wednesday within the premises of the Supreme Court when he finally appeared after being on the run eluding law enforcement agencies for over a month– earlier, his attempt to leave the country incognito via Islamabad airport with assistance from ‘friends’ and ‘facilitators’ ended as a botched exercise.

Anwar, seen wearing a surgical mask, reached the apex court in capital Islamabad earlier today in a white car. Security was beefed up at court premises and police cordoned off the entrance. The three-member bench resumed suo motu hearing of the case against him and disposed off contempt notice which was served earlier on him for not appearing despite court order.

“You used to act brave. Where had you been all this time,” Chief Justice Saqib Nisar remarked. “You went into hiding. Do you not trust the courts?” Justice Nisar asked Anwar.

“I am innocent,” the former Malir Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) told the bench. The court then ordered the constitution of a new Joint Investigation Team (JIT). An earlier JIT had implicated him in Naqeebullah nd three others ‘staged’ extra judicial killing.

Rejecting Anwar’s protective bail, the three-judge bench headed by Justice Nisar ordered the constitution of a five-member investigation team to probe the Naqibullah Mehsud ‘encounter’ case. Sindh AIG Aftab Pathan will preside over the team, the court ordered.

Rao’s defense counsel requested the court to include intel agency officials in the JIT. The court declined his plea saying, “We are constituting our own JIT.” The bench directed the team to work independently.

The court also ordered Sindh IG Police Allah Dino Khawaja to ensure Anwar’s safety during police custody, “it is your duty to protect him,” the court told Khawaja.

The bench also asked Naqeebullah’s relatives to not harm Anwar. The SC also directed his name remain on the Exit Control List (ECL).

The bench also directed Sindh Police to escort Anwar to Karachi. The court also ordered police to ensure the safety of all JIT members. The court further stated that Sindh police needed no further clearance to escort Anwar to Karachi.

Until Naqeebullah’s murder, Sindh’s so-called encounter specialist had not faced any inquiry over the number of encounter killings to his ‘credit’. Not a single inquiry — despite having slain at least 444 people between 2011 and 2018, according to the police’s own records, report Dawn. “Not a single policeman was even injured, let alone killed, during the 745 encounters.”

“He led a team of killing machines. There was no one to stop him,” a senior police official told the paper’s investigative team. “Why was no notice taken of his actions earlier? The truth is, everyone knows everything, but even the police command is afraid of him because of his close connections with criminal political bosses and within the security establishment.”

Interestingly, no record of Rao Anwar’s encounter killings existed in the central police office in Karachi, Dawn wrote in its report.

In the words of another long-serving police official the paper interviewed: “Men are airlifted from as far away as Fata (tribal area) and brought here for him (Anwar) to dispatch.

Police fatally shot Naqeebullah, 27, during a raid in January on what they described as a “terrorist hideout” in eastern Karachi last week, according to a police statement.

He was buried in his native town of Makin, in the South Waziristan tribal district bordering Afghanistan.

Mehsud’s killing sparked a social media outcry, and his family members rejected claims by authorities that he was a member of the Pakistan Taliban, saying he was an innocent aspiring male model.

So-called “encounter killings” are common in the country. Rights groups say when police lack enough evidence for a court conviction, they extrajudicially kill suspects.

In 2016, police said they had killed at least 318 suspects during raids and shootouts in Karachi, according to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HCRP), an independent rights organization.

“Some men in plainclothes came and abducted him from a restaurant in Karachi on January 3 [10 days before police said he was killed],” said Alamgir Mehsud, Naqeebullah’s cousin to Aljazzera “Then on January 16, we were told that he had been killed by police. We got his body back the next day.”

Naqeebullah, also known as Naseemullah, ran a popular Facebook page where he posted pictures of himself modelling clothes and hairstyles.

“He used to work in a garment mill in Karachi, and he used that money to fund his modelling,” said Alamgir. “He was a sort of idol to young people from the Mehsud tribe in Karachi.”

By late December, Naqeebullah’s page had more than 14,000 followers, and he often posted light-hearted messages.

On September 16, he posted a warning to young people not to engage in the “Blue Whale Challenge”, a reported social media campaign that encouraged self-harm.

Social media users used the hashtag #JusticeForNaqib to post messages of solidarity with his family, pictures of him modelling and to demand the police be held to account.

Protests were held against his killing in Karachi and the northwestern city of Peshawar. The Supreme Court took suo motu notice of his murder and ordered investigation which held Anwar responsible for Naqeebullah”s murder in cold blood.

Rights activist Jibran Nasir said justice had prevailed. “The only heat Anwar faces is from the courts. We want to strike fear of law, Constitution and judiciary in every law enforcement officer involved in extra-judicial killings,” he told The Express Tribune.

Was Rao Anwar produced or appeared. If he was absconding how come police escorted him to the Supreme Court. His disappearance and appearance raises many questions, Mazhar Abbas, a renowned Pakistani columnist tweeted.

Jibran said in one of his tweets: 1. Who was hiding Rao Anwar? 2. How he got to the Supreme Court? 3. Why no handcuffs were put on him? 4. Will case be limited to Naqeebullah’s murder or all encounters will be investigated?

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