CTD chief says scam being probed; DCO says he personally handed over two accused to department; cops who unearthed fraud transferred
LAHORE: A big scandal concerning issuance of illegal arms licences to thousands of members of banned outfits, arms dealers, criminals and terrorists with the connivance of the DCO office and the Post Office officials since 1994 is unearthed by the Counter Terrorism Department (CTD), Lahore.
According to sources, attempts to hush up the case are apparent from removal of police officials who played a key role in unearthing the scandal and delay in setting up a joint investigation team by the CTD top brass.
It is learnt that after the attack on Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park, which claimed the lives of over 80 persons including children on Easter 27 this year, the CTD regional office devised a plan to investigate the gory incident.
The investigators focused on 4th schedulers and started finding out the terrorists’ facilitators as two policemen were also killed in Iqbal Town in the recent past.
On March 29, three CTD officials – Head Constable Najam-ud-Din and constables Haroon and Shabbir Ahmad – took into custody Usman Arif, son of Muhammad Arif, resident of 603, Nizam Block, Allama Iqbal Town. The CTD team suspected that as he was an Ahle Hadith, had contacts with Daesh and could be involved in the blast.
During initial interrogation, he revealed that he had also taken jihad training. About his weapon, he said his 9-mm pistol was in the custody of Hameed Bhai, a resident of Azam Garden, Lahore.
The CTD raided Bhai’s house and arrested him, besides recovering a huge cache of sophisticated prohibited weapons, fake arms licences (prepared and empty copies) and 29 stamps of DCO office used in preparing arms licences.
The special raiding team also recovered postal tickets used for arms licences worth Rs 2,250,000 and Rs 4.6 million in cash.
Bhai also used to keep a record on a register of persons and companies to whom he had been supplying arms licences. During interrogation, he revealed that he had taken jihad training from Afghanistan and was expelled by Jamaat-ud-Dawa he being a Takfiri.
He confessed to selling weapons across the country including to the banned outfits by getting arms licences from the DCO Office, Lahore. He revealed the names of clerks Waqar and Suhail Babar and postmaster Abdul Razzaq working in Sodiwal Post Office. About the cost of one licence, Bhai said they used to take Rs 20,000 to 25,000 against one licence and Rs 50,000 for a complete package (weapon + licence). The DCO office clerks used to get Rs 15,000 against one licence for verification and even activate it in the Nadra record. He used to bring weapons from his two brothers in Peshawar and Darra Adamkhel.
According to Bhai, he started this business in 1994 in connivance with clerk Ilyas and is in contact with clerks Waqar and Suhail Babar since 1998.
The CTD team took Waqar into custody and recovered 150 fake licences and Rs 100,000 in cash from his vehicle. During interrogation, he also named the other staff of DCO – Nasir clerk of diary branch, Nadeem Abbas Bhatti, Safdar clerk and private touts Vicky, Usman, Akram, Rauf and Faisal. They used to show the fake address of outsiders in Lahore to issue licences. They also kept on befooling all the DCOs throughout the aforementioned period by getting approvals from them.
During interrogation, it was also revealed that only two arms dealers on Mall Road were doing genuine business, while all others used to get fake licences from the said clerks.
Waqar told investigators that arms dealers from all over Punjab contacted him for licences. The dealers of Lahore included KB, HK and MKC. Interestingly, these clerks had been working on the same posts for the last two decades or so.
The CTD report shows that the rampant issuance of fake arms licences resulted in rise of terrorist attacks, target killings, extortion, street crimes and kidnapping for ransom in the province.
Despite the revelations, Additional IG Rai Tahir has yet to constitute a joint investigation team for probe. Instead, according to sources, the Addl IG asked CTD SSP/RO Maroof Wahla to dispose of 35 high-profile suspects including Usman and Bhai, at a time when the investigation was on very initial stage.
‘Dispose of’ means sending an accused to any other agency, for example CIA, or to jail on judicial remand.
Sources further revealed that on May 2, on the directives of Rai Tahir, Usman and Bhai were moved to Bahawalpur. An inspector-rank officer had taken the two suspects, weapons and the Rs 4.6 million in cash from Lahore.
Wahla, who had expressed his reservations over the move, was transferred to Punjab Highway Patrol on May 5 under mysterious circumstances.
On May 6, the three cops, who had played a major role in the busting of network, were suspended on the charges of misconduct and negligence without holding any inquiry. They were asked to perform duty at an under construction set-up of the CTD and had been barred from seeing their families and friends. After one month’s ‘detention’, the three policemen were transferred to the CTD offices in DG Khan and Sargodha offices on security duties on June 3. This was how the cops, having expertise in conducting intelligence-based operations and a good record of arresting terrorists by putting their lives at risk, were rewarded, the sources claimed.
In order to hide the role of Bhai and Usman with the DCO office clerks and postmaster, an FIR was registered against five persons, including the two, on May 9 with the CTD Multan involving them in an attempt to bomb railway lines on Sutlej Bridge in Bahawalpur.
Two other nominated persons Rana Sikandar Ilyas and Noman were arrested Lahore, while Mohibullah from Nankana. Initially, in the said FIR, the recovery of only Rs 20,000 was mentioned, but later an amount of Rs 4.6 million were shown through a supplementary statement.
The three clerks – Waqar, Suhail and Shaukat – are still in the custody of CTD Lahore but, sources claim, the SSP has been ordered to stay away from them.
According to the sources, the huge network of terrorists, arms dealers and banned outfits can be busted through the record available at the DCO office and the one recovered from Bhai but no such initiative is being taken. The CTD high command is mulling over the safe disposal of DCO office clerks to completely hush up the issue due to the reasons best known to him.
This correspondent further asked the following queries to Rai Tahir:
1) What is the fate of the clerks of DCO office who had been issuing illegal arms licences since 1994?
2) How are you going to dispose them of?
3) Why a high-level inquiry or JIT into this scandal was not formed or why the ongoing investigation was interrupted?
4) How the accused fled to Bahawalpur when an inspector took them and all recovered items from Lahore and it is on record?
5) Why the three cops were first suspended without any inquiry against them? They were in a way detained and not allowed to see their families and eventually transferred on a security duty. Also why SSP/RO Wahla was transferred?
6) Why the investigation against 35 high profile suspects was interrupted through ‘speedy disposal’ at your express command? 7) Last but not the least, there is an impression that the entire issue is being hushed up to save the post office or the DCO office officials.
Rai Tahir strongly denied the points mentioned in the questions regarding his role in the entire issue. He also denied the point that the SSP or the three policemen were sidelined to hush up the case or undermine the investigation.
He said: “CTD had been collecting secret intelligence/ evidence on these terror suspects for quite some time. When information became ripe for IBO (Intelligence-based Operation), the suspects fled to Bahawalpur from where they were arrested and a case was registered there with the CTD police station. Along with recovery of other material including explosives, an amount of around 4,600,000 rupees was also recovered from them. It is part of case record and available in Malkhana.”
“The CTD has already requested the trial court to put this money in double lock treasury (application available in record of the trial court). The CTD is very particular in maintaining chain of custody of any recovery made from accused including valuables. Hence, proper procedures have been followed. Amount was not mentioned in the FIR because it was recovered through the revelations of an accused. Proper recovery memo is available showing this recovery. These suspects also used same religious school in Lahore for facilitation of terrorism which was earlier used by two Uzbek brothers (Rehmatullah and Naimatullah Uzbek) related to the gang involved in kidnapping of son of a high-profile government functionary in 2011. The court has ordered depositing the recovered amount in treasury. Investigations were done on merit.”
According to Rai Tahir, administrative matters or transfers have nothing to do with the issue. Postings are routinely made in CTD. Investigations are continuing into the issue. No one has been spared so far and no one involved will be spared in future. Just wait for investigation to complete.
Wahla, on the issue, said he had been transferred from CTD so he was not in a position to comment on the administrative issues.
Lahore DCO Capt (r) Usman claimed that he had personally handed over Waqar and Suhail to CTD. To a question, he said it was a long story and could not be told by phone.
About the inquiry conducted by ADC Irfan Memon, he said they would first wait for the CTD inquiry report and then reveal the ADC’s inquiry.
Another source in the DCO office claimed that Nadra had pointed out the verification of licences in back dates over which the DCO office got alerted and took action against the accused.
Efforts were made to contact Post Master General Aslam Khan Niazi for his point of view on the issue but he did not respond to the calls and SMS sent at his cell number 0333-4811618.
Meanwhile, Deputy Post Master General (Admin) Moazzam Mansoor called this correspondent on the behalf of Niazi and said officially he was unaware of the situation and could comment on the issue after getting information from operational staff.