The case of Dr Asim Hussain, which has taken an interesting turn, should be seen against a particular political backdrop
A Petarian (alumnus of Cadet College Petaro) like former President Asif Ali Zardari, Orthopedic Surgeon, former Petroleum Minister and a Senator of Pakistan People’s Party, Dr Asim Hussain is probably in the toughest phase of his life. When the closest buddy of former president of Pakistan was apprehended, besides others, he was holding the portfolios of Member and chairman Disciplinary Committee Pakistan Medical & Dental Council, President of Pakistan Nursing Council and Chairman of Sindh Higher Education Commission.
The Rangers raided the Sindh Higher Education Commission office at Clifton on August 26 this year to nab Dr Asim Hussain, making the most high-profile arrest so far of the Karachi operation that started on September 5, 2013.
The very next day on August 27, the Rangers produced him in the Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) III. The Rangers informed the court they have credible information regarding the doctor’s involvement in terror financing and other related activities. Rangers requested the court for 90 days custody under Section 11-EEEE of the Anti-Terrorism Act 1997.
Subsequently, the court placed Dr Asim under a 90-day remand to the Rangers’ custody for further investigation. During his detention, three different Joint Interrogation Teams (JITs) were constituted to probe the charges against him. The members of the three JITs were mainly comprised of NAB, FIA, Police, Rangers and Intelligence Bureau officials. Again during his detention, the NAB registered a case No. 231097/2015 against him in Karachi. On Nov 25, the police registered an FIR No. 197/2015 in District Central Police Station of North Nazimabad.
Of the charges levelled against Dr Hussain, the most prominent is "medical treatment of terrorists belonging to various political and banned outfits in his hospital".
The arrest of his dearest friend forced former President Asif Ali Zardari to issue a harshly-worded statement from London on August 31. He warned "the politics of revenge should be stopped immediately otherwise there could be disastrous consequences". He also alleged that the actions being taken by the federal agencies in Sindh were in clear violation of the constitution. The press release reads: "It seems that Nawaz Sharif has not learnt any lessons from the past. We are not the ones who fled to Jeddah after seeking a pardon".
On June 15, the Sindh Rangers conducted the first raid of its kind on any provincial institution, the Sindh Building Control Authority (SBCA). The Director General of SBCA, Manzoor Qadir alias Kaka, is allegedly a trusted lieutenant of Asif Ali Zardari. Kaka reportedly enjoys great powers and was a kingpin of Karachi. He was allegedly involved in the land embezzlement of billions of rupees and other corruption cases.
On June 16, a days after the SBCA raid, while addressing an oath taking ceremony of newly elected PPP office bearers from FATA in Islamabad, Asif Ali Zardari made a hard-hitting speech and openly threatened the military establishment. "Beware, beware, beware, if I hear this again, I will make public a list (of generals) starting from the creation of Pakistan and you will be giving explanations for quite a long time."
The political temperature went sky high. The entire media got busy angling his controversial speech. Feeling the dust of the so-called storm, former president and co-chairman PPP fled from the country on June 24 and hasn’t returned since then.
On December 7, when Dr Asim Hussain was produced before the administrative Judge of Anti-Terrorism Courts, Justice Naimatullah Pholphotu, he blasted and said "My life is under threat. If I die, who will be responsible, if (they) want me to be murdered then kill me but don’t hand me over to the Rangers".
The investigating officer requested the court for an extension of five days in the physical remand which was awarded by the administrative judge.
Dr Hussain’s family showed reservations about the previous investigation officer, Inspector Rao Zulfiqar, claiming he is towing the line of the Rangers. The family submitted an application before the IG Sindh, Ghulam Haider Jamali on December 2. The IGP office forwarded the application to DIG West, Feroz Shah. Due to the nature of the case, the said DIG handed over the investigation to a senior officer on December 4. Now, DSP Altaf Hussain is investigating the case and has produced Asim Hussain before Justice Naimatullah Pholphotu in Sindh High Court and obtained five days remand.
The question is why did Dr Asim Hussain blurt out in this manner after 103 days of his captivity. It is a known fact that NAB is keenly pursuing the corruption charges against him. A source privy to the ongoing investigation revealed that Chairman NAB Qamar Zaman Chaudhry using his authority had declared Mitha Ram Hostel as detention centre/sub jail of NAB. It is pertinent to highlight that on April 15 this year, the Sindh Government had already notified Mitha Ram Hostel as sub jail of Sindh Rangers. Knowing this, Dr Hussain apprehends that NAB detention centre in Mitha Ram Hostel means custoday under the Rangers and that is the primary reason he has spoken out in the court.
Talking to TNS, advocate Supreme Court and the attorney of Dr Asim Hussain, Anwar Mansoor Khan, said there were three types of patients who visited Ziauddin Hospital -- aged & general patients, women & kids and injured.
Khan said that he had seen all the records of the hospital and found them completely updated. "If we had any intention of hiding information, the record of the hospital would not have been 100 per cent updated. If they [Rangers] claim they have obtained the record from Ziauddin Hospital, it shows our client was keeping the record. How does it show criminality?"
"The record of all the injured who were treated in the hospital was kept and, in case of any bullet or other related injuries, the hospital followed the legal procedure of informing the concerned authorities. We have the data of all medico legal references," he further explained.
According to him, his client didn’t commit any crime. As per the law, a hospital is bound to provide medical facility to an injured person. Khan said if there was any case where such incident was not reported, it was the responsibility of the concerned staff or the duty doctor, not the chairman of the hospital.
A high ranking police official who has access to the case claimed that the police case under Section 7 ATA will not progress well and the law enforcement agencies will have to make huge efforts to prove these charges. "Chances are that he might get bail after some time."
Besides, he said, the police has no plans to investigate MQM leaders Rauf Siddiqui, Waseem Akhtar, Saleem Shehzad, Anees Qaim Khani and PPP leader Qadir Patel. The Rangers had named all these political figures -- alleging that during detention Dr Hussain had revealed that these people used to call him for treatment of their workers -- terrorists and gang war criminals.
Dr Ejaz Fatima, mother of Dr Asim Hussain, has alleged in an application filed on November 27 that her son was not allowed to meet with his lawyers for 92 days despite his repeated request which was in violation of his fundamental rights under Article 10(A).
She has mentioned a meeting with her son, "It was for the first time my son disclosed the amount of torture that was inflicted upon him during his illegal detention by the Respondent No. 3 [Sindh Rangers] for the purpose of extracting false statement, false evidence and self-incrimination. He [Dr Hussain] was kept in a dungeon without any light or electricity so as to torture him and extract a false statement from him… Since the Rangers is the complainant of the FIR, if Dr Hussain’s custody is given to the Rangers, no transparent, independent, impartial investigation can be done by the investigation officer of the Sindh Police."
This scribe approached the Sindh Rangers spokesperson for comments but no response was given by him.
Meanwhile, there is a standoff in Sindh as the provincial government is reluctant to extend special powers to the Rangers. On December 8, the Sindh provincial authorities gave a conditional nod to grant an extension in the special powers of the Sindh Rangers in Karachi after getting an endorsement of the matter through the Sindh Assembly.