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July 12, 2018

Out on bail


July 12, 2018

Former SSP Rao Anwar, long known by the moniker of ‘encounter specialist’, had managed to survive multiple suspensions and years of suspicions that he was involved in extrajudicial killings. The killing of Naqeebullah Mehsud was supposed to mark a turning point. Public outrage over the murder forced a serious investigation into the incident. A Joint Investigation Team formed by the Supreme Court held him responsible for killing Mehsud and three others on January 13 this year. Despite that, he escaped imprisonment as his house was declared a sub-jail and now even that minimal restriction has been removed as an anti-terrorism court has granted Anwar bail. Anwar claims he is being framed for the murder but the evidence against him is compelling. He denies being at the scene of the crime but geo-fencing – which uses GPS technology to determine when a mobile signal is entering or leaving an area – puts him at the place where Mehsud was believed to be killed. However, the arguments on geo-fencing could not be heard in the court as the investigating officer in the case repeatedly failed to show up for hearings. This has only heightened fears that Anwar continues to enjoy protection.

Even if conclusive proof showing that Anwar was present when Mehsud was shot dead could not be produced, there was still enough reason to deny him bail. Pre-trial arrest is needed when the suspect is a flight risk, and there is sufficient reason to believe Anwar will try to flee. When he was first accused of killing Mehsud, Anwar went underground and even tried to leave the country, only to be thwarted by security at the airport. He then repeatedly called into talk show hosts using WhatsApp so that his location could not be tracked. There is surely a legitimate fear that he will try and do the same again. There have been disturbing reports both of witnesses taking back their testimony and of deals offered to Anwar. If either is true, it would suggest the fix is in. Anwar has been accused of killing over 400 people in encounters during his long career. Whether he did so of his own initiative or at the behest of others still needs to be investigated. But for justice to be done, it is vital that Rao Anwar be thoroughly interrogated and placed on trial. Granting him bail reduces the chances of that ever happening.

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