Recently, the Anti-Terrorism Court in Karachi acquitted SSP Rao Anwar and all other accused in the well-known Naqeebullah Mehsud murder case. Human rights organizations expressed dismay and termed the decision as a murder of justice. The murder case of Naqeebullah Mehsud is also significant in the history of the Pashtun community’s struggles since it laid the foundation of the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM). The issue of concern is that on the one hand saving and acquitting Rao Anwar is an attempt to discredit the struggles of PTM against the murder of Naqeebullah Mehsud. On the other hand, the judiciary has ensured that armed forces avoid accountability for extrajudicial killings. On January 13, 2018, after the killing of Naqeebullah in an encounter in the Shah Latif area of Karachi, officers of Karachi Police (including SSP Anwar) claimed to have killed four terrorists including Naqeebullah. Immediately, Naqeeb’s family and friends took to the media claiming that he was not a terrorist but a hard-working young man. After the extrajudicial killing of Naqeeb Mehsud and others, youth from Pashtun areas of FATA, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and Balochistan protested in Karachi followed by a long demonstration in Islamabad. Given these protests, Anwar tried to flee the country several times. The Supreme Court of Pakistan also took notice and issued an arrest warrant for Anwar. A JIT consisting of senior officials was formed to investigate the case. The JIT report revealed that Naqeebullah was arrested a few days before his murder. Moreover, government weapons were used in the killings. Anwar was present at the site of Naqeeb’s murder. The Anti-Terrorism Court has ignored the JIT report. Seven government witnesses retracted their testimony in the Naqeeb Mehsud murder case. The prosecution did not try to prove murder. Anwar is also accused of killing over 400 innocent people in fake police encounters and he admitted in the media that Naqeebullah and others were killed in a police encounter despite the evidence, he, along with DSP Qamar Ahmad and others was acquitted. The court’s decision ignored all this evidence.
It appears that the motivation behind this decision is an attempt to discredit PTM’s struggle. Along with the killing of Naqib Mahsud, the PTM has exposed thousands of fake encounters and the killing of innocent people in these operations. Hundreds of cases have been lodged against PTM chief Manzoor Pashteen as well as the leaders and activists associated with the movement. Hundreds of PTM workers have been imprisoned. Ali Wazir, a member of the National Assembly elected from South Waziristan, and a key leader of PTM, has been in jail for the past two years. Officials, intellectuals and activists including Prof. Arman Loni, Arif Wazir and Tahir Dawar were killed to suppress the struggle of the Pashtuns. Their assailants are yet to be arrested. Manzoor Pashteen has announced a nationwide protest on January 25, to express dissatisfaction among the Pashtuns from accepting the verdict in the Naqeebullah Mehsud murder case.