Dawn : Rashid Rauf’s escape: two policemen detained

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Rashid Rauf’s escape: two policemen detained

By Syed Irfan Raza and Mohammad Asghar | December 17, 2007

ISLAMABAD, Dec 16: The government on Sunday set up a four-member committee headed by an additional secretary to investigate the escape of Rashid Rauf, allegedly involved in a London terror plot to blow up transatlantic flights in August 2006.

However, members of his family and his lawyer termed it a ‘mysterious disappearance’, saying they suspected it to have been arranged by security agencies.

“The committee will look into causes of his escape from police custody and present its report in three days,” Interior Secretary Syed Kamal Shah told Dawn.

The official said that the committee comprised Additional Interior Secretary Imtiaz Qazi, Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) Deputy Director-General Mirza Muhammad Yasin, Inspector-General of Prisons (Punjab) Mufti Sarfraz and Islamabad’s Deputy Commissioner Amer Ali.

Rauf escaped from police custody from the Islamabad District Court premises on Saturday where he had been brought from the Adiayla Central Jail for hearing of his case.

Hashmat Habib, the lawyer of the accused, rejected the government’s claim that his client had escaped from custody.

“In my opinion it is not escape, but a case of mysterious disappearance,” he said.He said Rauf used to be brought from the Adiala jail for hearing in different courts under tight security and sometimes even armoured personnel carriers had been used for his transportation.

“We will take stern action against those responsible for the escape of a high-profile accused. Two policemen have been taken into custody so far and are facing interrogation,” Mr Shah said.

Some sections have been alleging that Rauf is still in custody of intelligence agencies or that he might have been handed over to the British government.

However, the interior secretary said that the accused was still in the country, adding that he had not gone to any airport to flee abroad.

“But we have to check land routes also, especially those leading to Afghanistan, because it might possible that he would try to escape to Afghanistan through tribal areas,” the official said.

The UK government had already asked the Pakistan government to hand over the suspect to it.

In reply to a question about reaction of the British government, Mr Shah said: “I have talked to the British ambassador to Pakistan and apprised him of the update on the issue.”

A source said that intelligence agencies had traced a telephone call of Rauf, indicating that he was in the home of one of his relatives.

“Rauf has no problem in going to the UK as his family was demanding his extradition according to the law,” his lawyer said.

He said since hearing the news of his disappearance, his family members were extremely worried.

He said Rauf’s uncle and aunt contacted him soon after they came to know about his disappearance. They were shocked and concerned about his safety.

A source told Dawn that the government had already decided to hand him over to the British government.

The source claimed the decision to hand over the accused had been taken a few days before the end of the previous government’s term and it had to be honoured by the caretaker government.