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Karachi top cop removed over alleged fake encounter

Naqeebullah Mehsud’s case featured prominently on social media, with many people demanding action against SSP Rao Anwar.

world Updated: Jan 20, 2018 19:17 IST
Imtiaz Ahmad
Photo of Naqeebullah Mehsud taken from his Facebook page.
Photo of Naqeebullah Mehsud taken from his Facebook page.(Facebook)

The death of a petty businessman in an apparent fake gun battle in the Pakistani port city of Karachi has resulted in the suspension of a top cop known as an “encounter specialist” and triggered a debate on extrajudicial killings.

Pakistan’s Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar on Friday took notice of the alleged extrajudicial killing of Naqeebullah Mehsud, a 27-year-old man from the restive South Waziristan tribal region, and sought a report from the police chief of Sindh province within a week.

Senior superintendent of police Rao Anwar, under scrutiny for alleged involvement in the death of Mehsud, was removed from his post by inspector general of police AD Khawaja after an investigation team recommended he be suspended to ensure a fair and transparent inquiry.

Mehsud’s case featured prominently on social media, with many people demanding action against Anwar. One commentator said it was not safe for Pashto-speaking to move in public in Karachi as they were being seen as terrorists.

Senior journalist Mazhar Abbas tweeted that with such “encounters”, the rate of extortion by police “rises significantly”.

Anwar, a controversial police officer in Sindh, once told a crime reporter in an interview that he drew inspiration from Indian gangster movies, and that his desire was to clean up Karachi and rid it of political and religious criminals.

Earlier this month, Anwar claimed to have gunned down four members of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan in a gun battle near Shah Latif Town in Karachi. According to him, Mehsud had links with the outlawed Taliban and was living in Karachi’s Sohrab Goth area using a fake name.

Rehman Mehsud, a cousin of Mehsud, told the media his family had no connection with the Taliban and had actually fled to Karachi after the militants took over parts of Waziristan.

Mehsud ran a small clothes store on the outskirts of Karachi and had been kidnapped a few weeks ago. His relatives said he was fond of modelling and had a Facebook page with images from a recent photo shoot.

Anwar and his team insisted Mehsud and his partners were planning a major terror attack in Karachi when they were killed. Police officials have privately said this is not true and Anwar was “looking for someone to kill” so that he could claim credit for a foiled terror plot.

Anwar is seen as close to the military authorities and played an important role in operations conducted by the paramilitary Pakistan Rangers against terrorists and criminals since 2016.