Pakistani policemen accused of killing aspiring model acquitted

A Pakistani court on Monday acquitted all 18 accused, including a senior police officer, in a five-year-old case related to the killing of an aspiring model Naqeebullah Mehsud in the southern port city of Karachi, a court record said.

Mehsud, who hailed from the tribal region of South Waziristan, was killed in January 2018 for being an alleged member of the outlawed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), or Pakistani Taliban, by a police team led by Rao Anwar.

The anti-terrorist court in Karachi exonerated Anwar and 17 others, who pleaded not guilty to the charge, declaring that the "prosecution has failed to prove its case against the accused."

During nearly a five-year-long hearing, some 13 witnesses who had earlier termed the accused were involved in the murder, later took back their statements.

Mehsud's family, for its part, had denied the police claim and instead accused authorities of targeting the 27-year-old youth for being part of the Mehsud clan, which has faced the brunt of a series of security operations in the country’s northwestern tribal belt since 2009.

The slain victim used to run a Facebook page with nearly 26,000 followers where he used to post pictures of himself.

Mehsud’s pictures -- some with his minor children -- sporting a stylish beard had stirred a social media debate after the killing and prompted the country’s Supreme Court to take suo - motu notice of the case.

The family lawyer Jibran Nasir told reporters that they would appeal the judgment in the Sindh High Court.

Anwar, who retired from the service in 2020, along with three officers, was on bail, while another 13 accused were in jail.

The officer is known for being an “encounter specialist” or staging extra-judicial killings. Some local media reports put his list of kills as high as 200.

A joint investigation team, in its findings, had declared Rao and his team were involved in the murder of Naqeebullah and his three friends in a staged clash.

Pakistani police have long been accused of killing the suspects in fake clashes.

In 2019, another Pakistani court acquitted six policemen accused of killing a couple, their teenage daughter, and a neighbor in northeastern Punjab province.

They were killed on suspicion of having links to the militant groups, a charge which was later proved wrong.

Source: Anadolu Agency