By Aamir Latif
KARACHI, Pakistan (AA) - The killing of an aspiring male model by a police team led by a notorious officer in the port city of Karachi has sparked angry protests in several parts of the country and a huge social media outcry.
Naqeebullah Mehsud, who hails from South Waziristan tribal region was killed last week for being an alleged member of the outlawed Pakistani Taliban.
His family denies the police claim and instead accuses authorities of targeting the 27-year-old youth for being part of the Mehsud clan, which has faced the brunt of security operations in the country’s northwest.
The slain victim used to run a Facebook page with nearly 26,000 followers where he used to post pictures of himself in various modelling poses.
Mehsud’s pictures -- some with his minor children -- sporting a stylish beard stirred a social media debate after the killing, and prompted the country’s top court on Friday to take suo-moto action of the case.
Rao Anwar, the controversial police officer involved in the killing, has been transferred from his post and is now facing an inquiry in the alleged extra-judicial killing case. The notorious officer is known for being an “encounter specialist” for killing dozens of suspects -- some local media reports put his list of kills as high as 200.
Encounters refer to staged shootouts that involve security personnel shooting a suspect dead after alleging the victims were terrorists and had attacked law enforcers first.
Dr. Sanaullah Abbasi, head of the three-member inquiry committee and chief of Sindh provincial police’s counter terrorism cell, said preliminary inquiry of the Mehsud incident had found the slain victim innocent after no links between him and the Taliban could be established, according to Geo News.
The inquiry also found the Anwar claim about Mehsud’s death in a supposed shootout with police personnel “doubtful”, Geo News reported.
“The committee is of unanimous opinion that in order to ensure fair and transparent enquiry of the incident and investigation into the case, Rao Anwar and Superintendent Investigation Altaf Sarwar Malik may be transferred and placed under suspension," a statement from Sindh province police chief A.D Khowaja said on Saturday.
Anwar, however, told local media on Friday that Mehsud was supposedly a hardened criminal who had allegedly served as a guard for Hakimullah Mehsud. Mehsud’s family reject this notion and maintains the victim was picked up by police from his shop earlier this month.
People have also come out in the streets to slam the officer’s extrajudicial killing. Infuriated protesters on Friday blocked a main highway in Karachi to protest the killing. Demonstrations were also held in other cities including Peshawar, capital of northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
- Discrimination against Mehsuds
The Mehsud clan has consistently complained of widespread discrimination ever since some members from among them joined militant and terror groups.
Two chiefs of Pakistani Taliban militant group, also known as the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), hailed from the Mehsuds.
Baitullah Mehsud founded the militant network in 2007. He was succeeded by Hakimullah Mehsud. Both TTP chiefs were killed in U.S. drone strikes in 2009 and 2013.
The Pakistani Taliban faction has also claimed numerous terrorist attacks in the country, which have left thousands of civilians and military personnel dead.
Security operations launched against the Pakistani Taliban in the northwest has forced thousands of Pashtuns, including Mehsuds, to migrate to other parts of the country in the last decade.
The vast majority of Mehsuds are peace-loving Pakistanis, who can be found involved in various businesses and odd jobs around the country. From running a truck business to gatekeepers of apartment complexes, these enterprising people can now be found in all corners of the country, from northeastern Lahore to southeastern Karachi.
However, in southern Sindh province and northeastern Punjab provinces they are generally treated with suspicion.
Many complain that even banks do not allow them to open an account, while others say they are not given national identification cards and are profiled as Afghan refugees.
Amanullah Mehsud, a green grocer from Karachi’s Shireen Jinnah colony, told Anadolu Agency: “If you travel by bus, train or air, once you show your identity, you will have to go through an exclusive check, just because of the Mehsud tag. It’s so humiliating.”
Rights activists confirm the incidents of racial profiling of Mehsuds.
Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) Vice Chairman Asad Iqbal Butt said: “Discrimination against any particular community just because some of its members are involved in terrorism, is totally unethical and against the local and international laws.”
Pakistan’s constitution, he noted, guarantees freedom of movement to any citizen but the government’s indifferent attitude is tantamount to depriving Pakistanis of this particular right.