Senate body summons interior minister, Nadra chief and cell company
ISLAMABAD: The Senate standing committee on human rights on Saturday grilled Inspector General Police (IGP) for failure in arresting those who kidnapped and tortured Umar Cheema, senior journalist of The News, and summoned interior minister Rehman Malik, Nadra chief and the cellular company over this issue for the next hearing.
The chairman of the Committee, Senator Afrasiab Khattak, Senator Suriya Amiruddin and others raised searching questions putting the Islamabad’s police chief on the defensive. They wondered why such a high-profile case failed to gain desired attention of the investigators. “If people are not safe in Islamabad, then how can we talk about the restive areas?”
The chairman asked why the police was not investigating the alleged role of the country’s intelligence agencies in the abduction and torture. Cheema himself had strongly suspected the ISI in this respect while recording statement before the judicial commission and the police investigation team.
The chairman said it is important to investigate the role of the agencies as the judicial commission formed for fact-finding had also suspected the agencies’ involvement. “The institutions become stronger when the rogue elements are identified and published.”
Senator Afrasiab Khattak said that in three high profile cases of Saleem Shahzad, Umar Cheema and Shakil Sheikh, the same pattern had been used and it must be made known who were involved.
The committee that had also to take up Saleem Shahzad’s murder case deferred it until the judicial commission formed for the purpose gives its findings. As the IGP Islamabad, Benyamin couldn’t satisfy the committee and failed to answers the questions raised by Umar Cheema who was also invited to the meeting, the committee sought the presence of the interior minister, Nadra high-ups and officials of the mobile company. The mobile company has been summoned following the disclosure of Umar Cheema that his SIM that was issued in 2002 in his name, was transferred to somebody else’s name after the incident of his kidnapping.
Nadra authorities have been directed to appear before the committee as the victim journalist confronted the statement of the IGP that forensic evidence collected from Cheema’s car couldn’t find a matching sample from Nadra’s record.
Cheema told the committee that he established through credible contacts in Nadra that forensic record had not been sent to them, let alone matching or mismatching. Upon hearing this, the chairman of the committee directed Nadra high-ups to ensure presence in the next meeting and inform whether the IGP’s statement of sending the record is correct. The IGP who was also head of Joint Investigation Team (JIT) formed for Cheema’s case probe, further flip-flopped on the issue of receiving the report of judicial commission set up for fact-finding in this respect. Initially he requested the committee to direct the interior ministry to produce the commission’s report. The report should have served as guideline for the JIT in furtherance of the criminal investigation.
Cheema at this point asked the IGP how they completed the investigation, half-baked though, without receiving the commission’s report. “It might have been received by us, it might not,” he replied but admitted he was not privy to it. The committee then directed the interior ministry to present full report in the next meeting as it has long been denied under different excuses.
The IGP told the committee that the JIT was still following the clue they received in the beginning when one Imtiaz Ahmad had sent a text message naming a few who, he claimed, had carried out the attack. “We are still trying to get hold of Imtiaz. We sent a raiding party to his home in Kashmir but couldn’t find him there,” the IGP said.
Expressing his dissatisfaction over the investigation, Senator Raza Rabbani said the text message could have been an attempt to distract attention from the real culprits and wondered why the investigators were hesitating from looking into other aspects, say, the involvement of the agencies.
Cheema told the committee that despite repeated requests to the JIT, he had not been provided Call Detail Record (CDR) of his cell phone that the investigators had obtained after the incident occurred on September 4, 2010. The committee subsequently directed the IGP to produce this on the next hearing.
The victim journalist also deplored that interior minister Rehman Malik had told a high profile delegation of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), an international organisation working for the protection of journalists, that Cheema’s case was the outcome of personal enmity. In contrast to the minister’s claim, the JIT couldn’t provide substance in this respect.
Cheema further said it had become a standard practice of the interior minister to issue such a statement as he did in the case of Saleem Shahzad even when his dead body had not reached Islamabad. Likewise, he made the same statement after another investigative journalist, Azaz Syed, had his house attacked twice. The committee, upon hearing this, also directed the interior minister to appear in the next hearing to face questions being raised over his misleading statements.
Source: The News