Pak anti-terrorism court acquits senior police officer and 17 others in killing of aspiring model

NewsDrum Desk
23 Jan 2023

Karachi, Jan 23 (PTI) An anti-terrorism court in Pakistan on Monday acquitted a senior police officer and 17 others, mostly policemen, who were on trial for the last five years for killing an aspiring model in the port city of Karachi.

In its brief verdict, which was pronounced by ATC XVI judge at the Karachi Central Prison, the court said the prosecution had failed to submit sufficient evidence against Rao Anwar, who at the time was Karachi's police chief, and other accused persons.

Naqeebullah Mehsud, a 28-year aspiring model who hailed from South Waziristan, was killed in January, 2018 along with three others under suspicious circumstances.

Anwar had claimed that Mehsud was a Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militant, but a statement issued by a spokesperson of the militant group termed his claim "baseless" and said that the deceased had no links with the outfit.

The incident created a storm on social media with public outcry and sparked countrywide protests by civil society against the state's failure to arrest the senior police officer and his team.

Anwar had gone underground for three months after the encounter but the then chief justice, Mian Saqib Nisar, taking suo motu notice told the police officer to surrender which he did in May, 2018 before the Supreme Court.

Anwar, along with his around two dozen subordinates, were then charged with the killing of Mehsud and three others after dubbing them as militants. He was suspended following the raid and barred from leaving the country.

In March 2019, the ATC had indicted Anwar and his 17 subordinates for killing the four men on the outskirts of Karachi.

Anwar claimed that he had been framed due to a "departmental rivalry", but failed to name any officer in the police department.

During the trial, the prosecution produced 51 witnesses in court — including the medico-legal, forensic and ballistics experts, nine private witnesses and police officials.

The ATC judge noted on Monday that the prosecution had failed to prove that the victims were kidnapped and murdered in a fake encounter by Anwar and his team.

"Geo-fencing reports and call records failed to prove the presence of Rao Anwar and others at the place of the fake shoot-out," the judge said.

A detailed verdict in the case is awaited.

Noted lawyer and human rights activist Jibran Nasir, who is representing the legal heirs of Mehsud, said an appeal would be filed in the Sindh High Court and the case was not over.

Speaking to Geo TV after the acquittal, Anwar said that "fake allegations" against him had been proven wrong today.

When asked whether he would like to rejoin the police force, he said one year of his service was left and he "would like to serve Karachi". PTI CORR ZH ZH

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