The Hindu : A lapse, says Pakistan

Thursday, December 20, 2007

A lapse, says Pakistan

Nirupama Subramanian | December 19, 2007

ISLAMABAD: An embarrassed Pakistan government on Tuesday admitted security lapses in the escape of Rashid Rauf, a British Pakistani arrested in 2006 for his alleged role in the plot to bomb trans-Atlantic planes, and said it hoped to arrest him soon despite the eight-hour lead he got over them.

Mr. Rauf escaped on Saturday evening while he was being taken back to Rawalpindi’s Adiala prison after a bail hearing in the Islamabad district courts. The British government was pushing for his extradition, not in the terror case but for his suspected role in the 2002 murder of his maternal uncle in Birmingham.

According to details emerging in the Pakistani press, he gave the slip to the two policemen escorting him with the help of his uncle. The policemen had to take Mr. Rauf back to prison in a taxi, but willingly accepted the uncle’s offer of a ride in his van.

The policemen agreed to make a food-stop along the way, and then a prayer-stop, which is when uncle and nephew vanished through a back door of the mosque.

The two policemen have been arrested, and an Interior Ministry committee investigating the escape is now reported to be in the process of establishing if the policemen actively helped him to bolt or if they had been negligent.

Caretaker Interior Minister Hamid Nawaz said that the escape was “unfortunate”, and said there had been “security lapses.”

Mr. Rauf was arrested in Pakistan on a British tip-off in August 2006 in connection with the alleged plot to blow up planes leaving Britain for the U.S. Following the arrest, Tony Blair, then British Prime Minister, called President Pervez Musharraf for his assistance in thwarting the plot. Mr. Rauf is married to the sister of Maulana Masood Azhar’s wife. Mr. Azhar is the founder of Jaish-e-Muhammed, a militant group banned in Pakistan.