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One year on, rights activist Rashid Rehman’s killers remain unpunished

One year on, rights activist Rashid Rehman’s killers remain unpunished

MULTAN: The local police have failed to complete investigations and submit the challan (charge-sheet) of the murder case of lawyer and human rights activist Rashid Rehman, even though one year has passed since his slaying.

Special Task Force Coordinator of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Mr Rehman was killed and two other persons were injured in an attack targeting the HRCP’s Multan office on May 7, 2014.

A month prior to his killing, the victim had submitted applications to the district police and the president of the District Bar Association, saying he was threatened during the hearing of a blasphemy case of a visiting lecturer of Bahauddin Zakariya University, Junaid Hafeez. The accused asked him not to appear in the case again.

Take a look: Rights advocate Rashid Rehman Khan gunned down in Multan

In his applications, Mr Rehman had stated that if something happened to him, the responsibility would rest with Zulfiqar Ali Sindhu, Sajjad Ahmad Chawan (both lawyers), Ayoub Mughal and a fourth man.

The DBA president did not take any notice of the applications while the police initially had claimed they did not receive any application from Mr Rehman. However, after it was confirmed that besides the applications, a letter was also received by the police from the home department to provide security to Mr Rehman, the then SSP (Operations) Shaukat Abbas was suspended.

And just as the police failed to protect the late activist’s life, similarly, proper investigations have not been made to bring his killers to justice.

Soon after the killing, the victim’s mobile phone was stolen from the crime scene and recovered after two months. An FIR was lodged in this regard.

Initially the FIR was lodged against two unidentified persons on the complaint of Khalid Jamil, the brother-in-law of Mr Rehman, and police made sketches of the alleged killers with the help of eyewitnesses. But these were never made public; however later in November 2014, police claimed that Saim Hassan alias Abdul Rehman, a resident of Karachi, along with two companions — Mohtasim alias Israr and Ammar Farooq alias Tipu Hamza, both residents of Rajanpur — murdered Mr Rehman. An incomplete challan of the case was submitted to Anti-Terrorism Court No II, Multan, in this regard in which the police informed the court that accused Hassan has been killed in a police ‘encounter’. Another incomplete challan was submitted by the police in January 2015 while informing the court that the remaining two suspects had been declared absconders.

Police started considering the three accused as the assassins of Mr Rehman after they got a statement from the complainant that on July 1, 2014 Hassan came to his home and said that he along with his companions had killed Mr Rehman. Muzaffargarh police claimed Hassan, who belonged to the Al Qaeda-linked Ahmed Farooq Group, was killed in an encounter on July 8.

Multan police produced a list of 23 witnesses in court. Surprisingly, the names of the two injured — Nadeem Parwaz and Fazal Hussain — were not included in the list of witnesses.

Police did not bother to contact the jail authorities to get video record and other data of the people who used to attend the court hearings of Junaid Hafeez’s case without permission, as only the prosecutor as the counsel for the state (the state is complainant in this case) and lawyers of the accused were allowed to enter and attend proceedings.

Police also did not ask the jail authorities how unrelated people were able to enter the jail and join court proceedings. Interestingly the sketches of the alleged killers that were made with the help of witnesses do not match with the three suspects.

Station House Officer (SHO) Chehliyak Police Station and Investigation Officer (IO) of the case, Zubair Bangash, said that he does not know why the police did not include the names of both injured as witnesses and why video record and other data were not collected from jail authorities as he is not the “actual” IO of the case. “Former SHO Saeed Akhtar Gujjar was the first IO of the case and he may better answer these questions,” he said.

The officer claimed the police could not submit the complete challan of the case as the complainant and other witnesses are least interested in the case.

When asked how could the police believe that the three suspects mentioned by the complainant were the real culprits despite the fact that the police do not have any evidence against them, Mr Bangash said SHO Gujjar could better answer this.

Former SHO and IO Gujjar refused to comment for this story.

Published in Dawn, May 8th, 2015

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