The News : ‘Rashid Rauf may have sneaked into Afghanistan’

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

‘Rashid Rauf may have sneaked into Afghanistan’

Investigation into escape in final stages

By Shakeel Anjum | December 19, 2007

ISLAMABAD: The intelligence agencies are said to have expressed strong fears that the fugitive Rashid Rauf might sneak into troubled Afghanistan to seek protection of his former comrades in the ranks of the Taliban in a bid to avoid his deportation to the UK, where he is wanted for murder.

Meanwhile, sources said, despite serious concerns expressed by the British foreign office, the government of Pakistan has not submitted any report to the concerned British authorities on Rauf’s escape.

The British government is now compiling its own reports within the High Commission on the developments taking place since the escape of their most wanted man. A confidential report has already been sent to President Musahrraf in which certain initial facts about the dramatic escape of Rashid Rauf have been stated. The report is believed to have criticised the inefficiency of certain top officers of the Islamabad police, for failing to understand the sensitivity of the whole matter.

Meanwhile, Rauf continues to dodge the intelligence and law enforcement agencies, as several days have passed since he escaped.He remains untraced so far despite serious notice taken by no less a person than President Musharraf.

Earlier, news of the escape of Rashid Rauf, whose extradition to the UK was under process, instantly became an international issue and a major subject of news stories in the international media because of his alleged involvement in a terrorist plot to bomb aircraft at Heathrow airport. The pressure is already mounting on Pakistan to trace this most wanted of absconders, as he is supposed to know a lot about the terrorists attacks in London and might give useful clues to the British investigators to trace the missing links in the London bomb attacks of July 7, 2005.

These sources have also expressed fears that Rashid Rauf could be found dead, simply because of the sensitivities involved in the case. They argue that those who had managed his allow his escape might not allow him to land in the hands of the police alive.

A new dimension was being discussed in the intelligence circles that Rashid Rauf might sneak into Afghanistan using the long route via Quetta. It might not be possible for the agencies to capture him before he enters Afghanistan because it was very difficult to man the 1,400 km long border between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Sources said that attention had already been focused on the possibility of his escape to Afghanistan. Certain police officials were quite hopeful in private conversations with this correspondent that they might catch hold of the fugitive very soon as they have found certain clues.

Online adds: Caretaker Interior Minister Hamid Nawaz Khan has vowed that Rashid Rauf will not be spared and he would be re-arrested soon. While talking to reporters on Tuesday, he said that the investigation team is doing its job in a methodical manner. He underlined that special police teams have been constituted to arrest Rashid Rauf.

He made it clear that strict action would be taken against all the officials who showed negligence and slackness in this regard. IG Police Shahid Nadeem Baloch also said that police teams are on their toes to search and arrest the fugitive.

A meeting of the investigation team was held at the office of Deputy Commissioner Islamabad Amir Ahmed Ali and was chaired by Additional Interior Secretary Imtiaz Qazi. The statements of superintendent and deputy superintendent of Adiala Jail, besides two police officers allegedly involved in allowing the escape of Rashid Rauf, were formally recorded, it was learnt. The committee apprehended that the culprit could not have escaped without the help of the police.

They further said that a meticulous investigation will be held to find the culprits behind the heinous act, adding that record of all those people who used to meet Rashid Rauf will be checked.

The Investigation team is expected to submit its report on Wednesday (today) that will be later presented to President Musharraf. —Online AP adds: Interior Minister Hamid Nawaz called Rauf’s escape “unfortunate” and a serious security lapse.

“We have one or two very good leads which we are working on, and the people who were closely involved in his escape have also been apprehended,” he told AP. He said Rauf’s possible escape routes have been blocked but he had a “good eight to nine hour start that has given him some advantage.” Nawaz said the five people who were arrested include two police officers and one of Rauf’s uncles.

He said he did not know if al-Qaeda was behind the escape, pending completion of an investigation. “Until then, it is all guess work,” he said. A judge in Rawalpindi on Tuesday granted a police request for permission to question the two detained officers for six days, said Shan Mohammed, a local police official.

Reuters adds: Rauf’s escape is a major embarrassment for the government of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf. Former prime minister and opposition leader Benazir Bhutto said she was shocked by the escape and demanded a thorough investigation.