ISLAMABAD: The November 11 assassination of Haider Ali aka Saleem, the sixth and the last eyewitness in Wali Khan Babar’s murder case, has made it really difficult for the Anti-Terrorism Court hearing the case to convict the arrested assassins and to take them to task. Haider was gunned down hardly 48 hours prior to his November 13 scheduled appearance before a Karachi trial court to testify against the accused, writes Amir Mir.
Of the 23 witnesses listed in the January 12, 2011 murder case of Geo News’ reporter, only six had agreed to testify before the Anti-Terrorism Court III against the arrested accused, mainly due to security concerns, even though the trial was being conducted inside the Karachi Central Prison. However, all the six eyewitnesses, including two policemen, a police officer’s brother and one informer linked to the investigations and two civilians, have already been killed one by one between January 2011 and November 2012. And not even a single arrest has so far been made in these murder cases. Haider Ali, the last one to go, was located and gunned down despite the fact that he was underground and shifted to the Soldier Bazar area in Karachi recently. Shortly before being killed, Haider had identified before a judicial magistrate four of the arrested assassins who he said were involved in the murder.
Judicial Magistrate Central Nasrullah Korayi had subsequently testified before ATC III Judge Ghulam Mustafa Memon [on November 2] that Haider Ali had identified four of the five accused during identification parade. The magistrate told the court that those identified by the eye witness included Faisal Mehmood aka Nafsiati, Shah Rukh aka Mani, Syed Tahir Naveed Shah aka Polka and Syed Mohammad Ali Rizvi. However, he could not identify the fifth accused Shakeel aka Malik. The magistrate told the judge that Shah Rukh aka Mani has already confessed in his statement that he had chased Wali Khan Babar on motorcycle as he left the Geo News’ office on the day of his assassination. He kept informing Faisal alias Mota about the movement of Wali Babar, before he was eventually shot dead. According to the findings of a Joint Investigation Team formed to probe the murder, the eight arrested accused belong to the notorious death squad of a Karachi-based ethnic group.
Well placed police officials in Karachi who are dealing with the Wali Babar murder case, believe that with the murder of Haider, the last remaining eyewitness, it would be hard for the trial court to convict the killers. The trial court has already adjourned the Wali Babar murder case for indefinite period, especially after the complainant’s lawyer decided to skip court on November 13.
Haider was silenced to death by two unidentified persons who barged into his house on the night of November 11. The killers had brought a box full of sweets to the victim’s house. When his wife opened the main door, they barged in and shot Haider twice in the head after identifying him. Haider lost his life despite clear instructions given by the Sindh High Court to the provincial government to provide foolproof security to the witnesses as well as the lawyers involved in the case.
The ATC was also directed by the Sindh High Court on October 19, 2012 to wrap up the Wali Khan Babar murder case within 45 days, which seems to have prompted the assailants to physically eliminate the remaining eyewitnesses with a view to stop them from testifying before the court. In fact, the first eyewitness to lose his life was Rajab Bengali, a police informer, whose dead body was found in a sack on January 29, 2011 in Block 13-D of Gulshan-e-Iqbal No 6. The police found in his pocket a piece of paper which carried the name of head constable Arshad Kundi. As per the note, Kundi was to be the next target, being the handler of Rajab Bengali. Arshad Kundi was taking information from Bengali and passing it on to the Town Police Officer (TPO) Liaquatabad, Naveed Khwaja. Bengali had tipped off the police about the location of the vehicle which was owned by Liaqat Ali and used to target Wali Babar.
The second eyewitness to be killed was a policeman, Asif Rafiq, an employee of the Sindh Police, who was at the spot at the time of the murder and had noted down the registration number of the car in which the killers fled. He was killed mercilessly in same fashion and in the same area of Liaqatabad on January 31, 2011, two weeks after Wali Babar’s murder. The third victim was head constable Arshad Kundi, who had helped the investigators trace the location of the suspects’ car in Mobina Town. Arshad Kundi was shot dead on March 19, 2011 in a drive-by attack by two men on a motorcycle in the Sohrab Goth area of Karachi. He used to work for the Gulshan-e-Iqbal investigations police.
On April 7, 2011, almost 85 days after Wali Babar’s murder, the Karachi police chief held a press conference and claimed to have arrested five suspects in the case. But hardly two hours later, Naveed Tanoli, the 18-year brother of the SHO Supermarket Shafiq Tanoli, who was part of the team investigating the Wali Babar murder, was shot dead in Block 13-D-2 of Gulshan-e-Iqbal. The fifth victim was Faisal Tanoli, the gunman of Shafiq Tanoli who was gunned down on December 11, 2011, followed by Haider Ali who was killed on November 11, 2012.