KARACHI, Feb 1: On a fateful evening, 14-year-old Muhammad Owais was forcibly detained at Shah Faisal Colony Gate by four policemen who raped him for over an hour.
This was March 28, 2003. Once at home after the ordeal the boy poured some kerosene over his body for self-immolation. With 80 per cent of his body completely burnt, Owais died a painful death in the burns ward of the Civil Hospital the next morning.
The challan of the case was submitted 23 days after the FIR was registered, which nominated five suspects Dildar, Abdullah, Siddique, Fazle Rabi and another policeman, Muhammad Qasim.
The case’s inquiry officer Kamran Khan tried his level’s best to save the skin of his fellow officers though he could have never imagined in his wildest dreams that Qasim, a police constable, would become a high-profile terrorist and that the list of most wanted felons would carry his picture. Police constable Muhammad Qasim who later became known as Qasim Toori was among the four cops who subjected the boy to sexual abuse.
The investigation of the case did not take long to show the suspects innocent. As a result of weak inquiry they all were out while the downtrodden family of Owais was not in a position to fight a long-drawn legal battle against the perpetrators.
However, the extensive media coverage of the whole episode was bringing a bad name to the police department. Subsequently, a departmental inquiry was initiated against the policemen and those found involved in the case were dismissed from service.
Muhammad Qasim who is now identified as Qasim Toori alias Hamza didn’t have to wait long to take up weapon again, but this time he was on the other side of the divide. He became a team member of a newly-formed militant outfit, apparently inspired by the nomenclature of “Jundullah” already active in Iran’s Sistan and Balochistan province.
The outfit essentially comprised some disillusioned youths inspired by Al Qaeda, residing in the areas of Shah Faisal Colony, Model Colony and Landhi, said a senior investigator of Sindh police. To overcome financial constraints, the members of Jundullah (the army of God) generated funds by committing bank robberies after snatching weapons from law-enforcement personnel.
Attack on Gulistan-i-Jauhar police station a few days after robbing a bank in the same area was the first major operation carried out by the militant outfit.
“The primary target of the attack was to give a message of their presence and collect weapons, as they were reluctant to purchase weapons fearing that they could be exposed,” said a senior police officer.
On June 10, 2004 the group went ahead with their biggest operation by attacking the former corps commander, Lieutenant-General Ahsan Saleem Hayat. Ten people, including six soldiers and policemen, were killed and 21 were injured in the attack.
Soon afterward police succeeded in making arrests of Ataur Rehman, Shahzad Bajwa, Aziz, Danish Imam, Khurram Saifullah Shoaib Siddiqui, Rao Khalid, Shahzad Mukhtar, Adnan, Yaqoob Saeed and Najeebullah, all belonging to Jundullah.
In Feburary 2006 they were handed down death sentence and life imprisionment by an anti-terrorism court. However, five accused (Bilal, Qasim, Hammad, Shahab and Tayyeb) were declared absconding.
It was nearly two years after the pronouncement of court verdict that police raided a house in Sector 17-A of Shah Latif Town, a residential area in the outskirts of the city along the National Highway. After a heavy exchange of fire, which resulted in six casualties, police managed to arrest Qasim Toori and other militants.
A senior police officer was of the opinion that a special observation or a strict monitering of the former police offcials who were dismissed or left the jobs was required. He said: “The passion of carrying weapon and using it never goes away, especially of a policeman. Therefore, it should be ensured that once out of the force he does not join the other side of the divide,” he remarked.