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Fugitive Rao Anwar ‘surrenders’ to SC

ISLAMABAD: Suspended Malir Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Rao Anwar, wanted in the Naqeebullah Mehsud killing case, was arrested on Wednesday following his appearance before the Supreme Court.

Anwar was removed from his post after his suspected involvement in the murder of a 27-year-old native of Waziristan in a ‘staged’ police encounter in Karachi on January 13. There had been no trace of the absconding officer despite the fact that the Supreme Court had given a deadline for his arrest and called upon intelligence agencies and the Federal Investigation Agency to help Sindh police nab him. He had last been seen at Islamabad airport trying to flee the country on a Dubai-bound flight on January 23 before he was stopped by the immigration officials.

Soon after Anwar appeared before the three-judge bench hearing the suo motu case against Mehsud’s murder, Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar ordered police to arrest him. “Take him into custody,” the CJP said after rejecting his request for protective bail. The CJP expressed dismay at Anwar’s continuous absence in the case despite repeated summons and safety guarantees by the apex court.

The court ordered constitution of a five-member JIT to probe the case. Sindh Police AIG Aftab Pathan will preside over the team. Other members will be: Zulfiqar Larak, Dr Rizwan, Azad Khan and Waliullah – all police officials.

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

The court also ordered Sindh IGP AD Khawaja to ensure Anwar’s safety in police custody. “It is your duty to protect him,” the court told Khawaja.

On Anwar’s request, the court ordered the authorities to unfreeze his bank accounts so that his children do not face financial difficulties. Anwar’s salary must also be released, the CJP said.

The court also undertook a sworn statement from Mehsud’s family that they will not take the law into their own hands and harm Anwar.

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

After the hearing ended, Anwar was taken away in an armoured personnel carrier and later handed over to Sindh police officials.

On the request of Anwar’s counsel, the court withdrew the contempt notice issued to the officer last month, but ruled that his name will remain on the exit control list until the probe is completed.

Anwar, seen wearing a surgical mask, reached court earlier in the morning in a white car. Security was beefed up at the court premises and police cordoned off the entrance.

“You used to act brave. Where had you been all this time,” the CJP asked him. “You went into hiding. Don’t you trust the courts?” he asked. The former SSP replied that he was facing ‘serious threats’ which he had also mentioned in the letter sent to the CJP. “I am guiltless and am being framed in this case,” he claimed.

His counsel, Shamim Rehman, informed the bench that Anwar had now ‘surrendered’. “You aren’t doing anybody a favour by surrendering before the court,” the CJP remarked. “Your letter to the Supreme Court was not an appropriate move,” he said. “Prove your innocence before the [new] joint investigating team,” he told Anwar, adding that he would be considered innocent till proven guilty in the eyes of the law.

When the bench went for recess, the CJP stressed this was not being done to obtain instructions as the courts functioned autonomously.

While talking to reporters outside the court, Naqeebullah’s father thanked the people for standing by the family. He also expressed his gratitude to the judiciary.

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