Killing of Naqeebullah Mehsud
|Date||January 13, 2018|
|Time||3:21 p.m. (PST, UTC+05:00)|
|Venue||An abandoned poultry farm|
|Location||Usman Khaskheli Goth, Shah Latif Town, Karachi, Pakistan|
|Cause||Extrajudicial murder by police|
|Convicted||SSP Rao Anwar's police team|
|Sentence||No prosecutions; but SSP Rao Anwar and SP Altaf Sarwar Malik were suspended from their posts|
Naqeebullah Mehsud (نقيب الله محسود; also known as Naseemullah, Naqib Maseed, or by his nickname Veer) was killed on January 13, 2018 in Karachi, Pakistan during a fake encounter staged by the senior superintendent of police (SSP) of Karachi's Malir District, Rao Anwar. On January 3, Naqeebullah was kidnapped along with two of his friends, Hazrat Ali and Mohammed Qasim, by Rao Anwar's men in plainclothes from Gul Sher Agha Hotel in Sohrab Goth, Karachi. On January 6, both of his friends were freed by the police, but Naqeebullah was kept in captivity, tortured, and then killed on January 13 in a fake encounter in which he was shot twice in the back. Alongside Naqeebullah, three other men namely Muhammad Sabir and Muhammad Ishaq from Bahawalpur and Nazar Jan Mahsud from South Waziristan were also killed by the police in the staged encounter, the latter of whom was shot from a close range. On January 17, Naqeebullah's dead body was handed over to his relatives at the Chhipa Welfare Association morgue in Karachi. On January 18, his body was taken by his relatives to Tank, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where Islamic funeral prayer was performed for him, and on the same day, he was buried at his hometown Makin, South Waziristan. The fake encounter sparked countrywide protests against extrajudicial killings in Pakistan.
Referring to the killings, the police alleged that they killed four suspected terrorists in a shootout. Rao Anwar claimed that Naqeebullah had links with the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Daesh). However, the claims were contested by Naqeebullah's relatives and human rights activists, especially the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (Pashtun Protection Movement), who launched a campaign to seek justice for him. An inquiry committee consisting of senior police officers was formed to investigate the killing, which found Naqeebullah to be innocent, and declared that the alleged police encounter staged to kill him and three others was fake.
Naqeebullah was born in 1990 in the Makin Subdivision of South Waziristan. He belonged to the Abdullai Mahsud tribe of the Pashtuns. In 2009, his family was forced to flee Waziristan by the Pakistan Army during Operation Rah-e-Nijat. After migrating to Karachi, Naqeebullah had been working as a labourer. He was passionate about modeling and was an aspiring model. He had three brothers, one of whom had settled in Dubai, UAE. Naqeebullah was planning to start a business in garments and had rented a shop in Sohrab Goth, Karachi just before being kidnapped and murdered.
Rao Anwar Ahmed, the senior superintendent of police (SSP) led the team staging the fake encounter and was already known for carrying out controversial police encounters in Karachi. He was known as the "encounter specialist" of the Sindh Police.
Killing of Gul Saeed
On January 16, 2018, when the inquiry against Rao Anwar was about to start following the extrajudicial killing of Naqeebullah Mehsud, Rao Anwar claimed that he came under attack in Karachi's Malir Cantonment while he was heading towards his house. He alleged that a suicide attacker detonated explosives near him and his squad but they remained unhurt, and that two accomplices of the attacker then opened fire on the police, both of whom were shot dead in the exchange of fire. He also alleged that a few militants escaped the site under the cover of fire while the police and Pakistan Rangers were conducting search operation. The alleged suicide attacker was later identified as Gul Saeed Afridi, a 34-year-old driver from Orangi Town, Karachi, who had gone missing a few months earlier. Gul Saeed's body was found to be burned badly, but not blown up and still in one piece, although it had allegedly fell far from Rao Anwar's armoured vehicle. Gul Saeed's family was outraged at the demands of the police from them after the killing. They protested and took Gul Saeed's body away from the police by force, but returned it to the mortuary after negotiations. The police placed the three dead bodies at the Chhipa Welfare Association morgue in Karachi. The other two bodies besides Gul Saeed, which were still unidentified, had been riddled with bullets. The Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan immediately claimed responsibility of the alleged suicide attack. Gul Saeed's family, however, appealed against Rao Anwar's allegations and claimed that Gul Saeed was innocent and had no links with terrorists. They asked how a suicide attack could even be possible in a sensitive area surrounded by the military like the cantonment, and asserted that Rao Anwar had in fact murdered Gul Saeed extrajudicially. The Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) probing the case doubted if a suicide attack had even taken place at the site. Suggesting that it was a fake encounter, a senior CTD officer Omar Khattab said: “This has been observed for the first time that the suicide bomber, despite having himself blown up with explosives, was only burnt. While examining the site of the attack, no traces of any explosive material were found. Even there was no smell of explosives.” The investigators found out that contrary to Rao Anwar's claim, no exchange of fire had taken place. According to the investigators, the alleged suicide attacker Gul Saeed was first riddled by the police with bullets, then a suicide vest was wrapped around his body, and then the vest was set on fire which burned his body.
The inquiry committee of senior police officers probing the case found no sign of an exchange of gunfire at the site of the alleged police encounter, which was an abandoned poultry farm. Although the police officers who had taken part in the alleged shootout claimed that militants were hiding inside the poultry farm who attacked them when the police encircled the hideout, the inquiry committee found out that there was no gunfire from inside the poultry farm during the incident. Some marks of firing were found in a room and on walls of the poultry farm, which the inquiry team declared to be post-incident fabrications by the police team.
The committee found out that during his service as a senior police officer in the Malir District of Karachi between 2011 and 2018, Rao Anwar carried out at least 444 killings in 192 alleged encounters, whereas the total number of alleged police encounters led by him was 745, including 553 cases which did not involve any killings. However, not a single policeman was ever killed or even injured during his 745 alleged encounters. Eight people were killed in Rao Anwar's two alleged encounters in the first 19 days of January 2018 alone. Senior police officers in Karachi, on condition of anonymity, claimed that the majority of the people killed during Rao Anwar's encounters were ethnic Pashtuns. They added that men were airlifted to Karachi from as far away as the Federally Administered Tribal Areas for Rao Anwar to deal with them. Another senior police officer stated: “[Rao Anwar] led a team of killing machines. There was no one to stop him.” Explaining why no notice was taken of Rao Anwar's actions earlier, the senior police officer revealed that “even the police command is afraid of him because of his close connections with criminal political bosses and within the security establishment.”
A mid-level police officer at the Malir police station, who had worked under Rao Anwar, remarked that money was the motive behind the picking up of Naqeebullah. He said: “Rao’s touts amongst the Sohrab Goth shopkeepers came to know that Naseem [Naqeebullah] was in possession of a hefty amount of money with which he wanted to buy a shop. Two policemen — SI Yaseen Dhukku and ASI Akbar Mallah — picked him up along with two of his friends from a restaurant on Abul Hassan Ispahani road. While they let his friends go, they continued to torture him even after extracting Rs9 million, demanding he pay them Rs20 million more. By then, he was in such bad shape that they decided it would be unwise to set him free.”
The inquiry committee termed the allegations by Rao Anwar against Naqeebullah as baseless and suggested to add Rao Anwar's name to the Exit Control List. They stated that the claims made by Rao Anwar, including the claim that Naqeebullah was unmarried, were untrue. The committee concluded that Naqeebullah was innocent and had no history of militancy or criminal activity, but was rather killed in a fake police encounter carried out by Rao Anwar. The four men including Naqeebullah were killed in two separate rooms of the abandoned farm by Rao Anwar's team and then their bodies were dumped in a single room. On January 20, 2018, Rao Anwar was removed from his post as senior superintendent of police (SSP) Malir on the recommendation of the committee.
On January 23, Rao Anwar attempted to flee the country in a Dubai-bound flight from Benazir Bhutto International Airport, Islamabad, but the Federal Investigation Agency foiled his attempt and stopped him at the immigration counter of the airport after observing that his No Objection Certificate was inauthentic.
Pashtun Tahafuz Movement
The Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM), under the leadership of Manzoor Pashteen, launched a campaign to seek justice for Naqeebullah Mehsud soon after his murder. PTM organized a series of protest marches and sit-ins at various cities. They held public gatherings in Islamabad, Quetta, Peshawar, Lahore, Swat, Karachi, Dera Ismail Khan, Swabi, Bannu, Tank, as well as other cities and towns, in which one of the main demands was to punish Rao Anwar and his team for murdering Naqeebullah.
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