Jhelum Review | Pakistan’s most powerful cop

Rao Anwar has ‘killed more than 300 people in over 150 encounters’ but remains a free man

For the past one week, Rao Anwar has been all over the news. The television channels, even the ones that had displayed too much warmth in the past are constantly screaming about his misdemeanours and murderous character. Many newspapers are digging out his past and interviewing the victims of his terror. Not that he is new to controversy, but this time things seem to have gone quite out of hand. The situation has changed so fast that many commentators are claiming that his time is up. One Karachi-based leading Urdu daily recently ran a headline: “Gallows await Rao Anwar.” He has been denounced in the country’s National Assembly and the provincial Assembly of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) passed a motion condemning his criminal activities.

A week ago Anwar was a senior superintendent of police (SSP) in Malir, the largest district of Karachi, the financial and crime capital of Pakistan. He was suspended after the public outcry over a staged encounter that killed four alleged ‘terrorists.’ One of them was later identified as Naqeebullah Mehsud, a 27-year-old tribal businessman and an aspiring model. Although Anwar claimed Mehsud was a terrorist from the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban, the death led to mass public outrage that ultimately forced the authorities to suspend the killer cop and promise an investigation. A hastily conducted inquiry by the police confirmed that “this was a fake encounter in which an innocent man was killed”. Sanaullah Abbasi, the additional IG who conducted the inquiry, also promised justice that is still eluding. Despite the court orders, a media campaign and censure from the National Assembly as well as the provincial Assembly of KPK, Rao Anwar is still a free man as is his gang of murderous cops.

In theory, Anwar is an SSP, a middle rung police officer. But his massive influence and reach is beyond any doubt. This can be gauged from these simple facts: So far, he has refused to appear before the police investigation set up by the IG of Sindh province claiming it is biased against him. He has also snubbed a high powered delegation of the National Commission for Human Rights. Despite being the main accused in multiple murder cases, there has been no attempt to arrest him and he continues to issue statements to the media. A few days ago, the murderous cop tried to flee the country in the middle of the night, but was stopped by Federal Investigation Agency officials. What is interesting is that the officials made no attempts to arrest him as he was reportedly allowed to leave the airport. This despite the fact that he was carrying forged documents including a ‘no objection’ certificate that apparently allowed him to officially leave the country. Although the committee investigating his murders has recommended him to be barred from leaving the country, the Ministry of Interior has yet to issue a notice that can formally put him in the Exit Control List. Despite mass protests and continued media glare, it took slain Mehsud’s father a week to register an FIR about his son’s death.

Rao Anwar’s two-decade police career is strewn with endless crimes – from kidnapping and extortion to murders. According to Ummat, a leading Urdu daily from Karachi, Anwar has killed more than 300 people in over 150 ‘encounters’ in the last decade. This includes seven people in the first two weeks of January 2018, including the murder of Mehsud and three others on January 13. He has a house worth $5 million in Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan, while he has shifted his family abroad where they own scores of businesses. The reports suggest Anwar is very close to the former Pakistani president and head of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), Asif Ali Zardari. This explains why the PPP-run Sindh government continues to treat him with kid gloves. Recently, the Information Minister of the Sindh Government, Syed Nasir Hussain Shah, described Rao Anwar as a brave officer.

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