Nation special report
LAHORE: The well-informed sources have claimed that in the light of confessing statement by accused Abid Hussain, the Punjab Government has established Joint Investigation Team (JIT) to investigate assassination bid on Federal Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal and the JIT will investigate the attack on Ahsan Iqbal with every aspect.
IG Police Punjab Capt(R) Arif Nawaz has sent the names of three senior officers of Punjab police to cooperate with JIT in this regard. The names of DSP Narowal Khalid Bashir Cheema and two officers of SSP designation are included. “Representatives of both prime intelligence agencies (ISI, IB) would also be taken to ensure the impartial and truthful investigation”, the sources confirmed.
The formation of JIT was considered necessary as the accused Abid Hussain claimed to be active member of Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan Rasoolullah (TLP) but the Khadim Hussain Rizvi, Head of the organization has disowned the claim of the culprit and thus the confessing statement of the accused became controversial. The JIT will ensure the factual position of his statement and role of TLYR, the sources added.
A case of attempt to murder on federal Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal has been registered. The case has been registered in Thana Gharib Shah and the complainant is ASI of Thana Gharib Shah, ASI Mohammad Ishaq. The case No. is 18/78.
According to FIR fire was opened on Ahsan Iqbal when he finished his corner meeting in Narowal. It was the case of an intentional attempted murder and 30 – bore pistol was used in the attack. The accused was apprehended at the spot.
On the other hand businessmen organizations have announced to observe shutter down strike against the attack on Interior Minister whereas the social and business organizations will take out rally to show their unity and solidarity with Ahsan Iqbal.
It may be recalled that Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal survived in an assassination attempt on Sunday evening but injured as was hit by a bullet in his right arm. The incident took place at Union Council Kanjrur in Narowal (Punjab) around 6:30pm. The minister had left for his car after a political gathering when he was attacked.
Ahsan Iqbal is out of danger and soon after the firing, was lifted to Lahore where he is being treated at Service Hospital.
It is stated that Ahsan Iqbal was hit by a bullet in his arm. Police apprehended the assailant, said to be 21-year-old Abid Hussain, and shifted him to an undisclosed location for interrogation. Police said that for the time being nothing can be reported as the investigation is continued.
Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif is supervising the ongoing investigation. Commenting over the incident, the political observers said that though the motive of attack looks persona revenge but it is too early to say anything definite.
The JIT on Tuesday acquired the mobile phone data of primary suspect Abid Hussain. According to sources, police has handed over the record of the initial probe to the JIT.
According to media report, Abid had reportedly confessed to the crime, saying he had bought the weapon used in the incident from a local after scraping together Rs15,000. The record of a telephonic conversation between Abid and rally organiser, Gulfam, has been acquired by the police and handed over to the JIT, sources told Geo News. Abid and Gulfam’s accomplice, Azeem, is also in police custody, sources added.
Police sources further claimed the JIT has decided to expand the scope of investigation into the case. Further, 17 more suspects have been detained during raids across Narowal in connection with the assassination attempt.
The detained suspects have been taken to an undisclosed location and are under investigation, sources said. The JIT after concluding its investigations will submit a report to Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif. On Monday, the Punjab government reconstituted the JIT an hour after it was formed to probe the attack on Iqbal.
Nawaz Sharif visitsIqbal
Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif visited ailing Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal at Services Hospital, Lahore on Tuesday and enquired his health. He also praised the bravery of the Minister and said that such cowardly attacks would not affect his and his team’s determination.
Nawaz Sharif was accompanied by PML-N’s KP president Amir Muqam. Earlier in a statement, Nawaz Sharif insinuated that the state had emboldened the attacker to execute his plans. Blaming the incident on the state’s capitulation to Tehreek-iLabbaik Pakistan (TLP) following the Faizabad sit-in and subsequent standoff with security forces in Islamabad last year, Sharif said: “This is the result of the distribution of Rs1,000 to the protesters.
If the protesters had not been given Rs1,000 each, perhaps this day would not have come.” He was referring to an infamous incident, also captured on video, wherein representatives of the armed forces had handed out Rs1,000 cheques to protesters as the latter dispersed following the November 2017 dharna spearheaded by the TLP.
The TLP had protested for more than 20 days at Islamabad’s Faizabad Interchange to have changes made to the Khatm-i-Nabuwwat oath in the Elections Act 2017 reversed.
The agitation had ended after the PML-N government failed to dislodge the protesters and launched a botched operation which eventually failed and forced the state to capitulate. The government ended up conceding to nearly all of the TLP’s demands — including the dropping of all cases against the protesters, who had at times turned violent and destroyed public property.
The army had played mediator between both parties, and the army chief was thanked in writing for the “special efforts” that led to the agreement.
After the ‘surrender’, Interior Minister Iqbal had said that “Civil & military leadership acted collectively [to] save the country from [the] threat of religion based violence. We must heal wounds [to] unite nation,” in a tweet on November 28, 2017.
However, contradicting the interior minister on the same day, TLP chief Khadim Hussain Rizvi had stated that it was the army which ensured the government met the protesters’ terms. “We told them [the government] that we cannot talk to you,” Rizvi had told Samaa TV on November 28, 2017.
“Then the army came in the middle and our companions met with army and ISI [Inter-Services Intelligence] bigwigs, generals etc.”
“They told us they will get all of our demands accepted,” Rizvi had said in a startling revelation. Rizvi said that his team never met the interior minister — whose signatures were present on the agreement — and it “must have been” the army leadership which got Iqbal to sign the document. What was the money for? “I would like to know — and not just I, but many people would like to know — why the money was distributed, and with what motive? This question remains, and one day the reality will come to light. If this matter can be resolved now, then it should be resolved now,” Nawaz Sharif said today.
While referring to an ongoing case in the Islamabad High Court concerning the Faizabad sitin, Sharif also pointed out that Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui had “asked relevant questions [from the state, about the protests], to which there was no response”. Justice Siddiqui had previously questioned the army’s involvement in and the legal standing of the Faizabad agreement, saying that none of its terms could be legally justified.
“Similarly, no one responded to questions raised by [Supreme Court] Justice Qazi Faez Isa,” Sharif added. Justice Isa had previously asked who had backed the sit-in while lashing out at security agencies for “failing to produce a new report” in court after a previous report on the fiasco was found unsatisfactory.
Separately, the leader of the House in the Senate, Raja Zafarul Haq, described the assassination attempt on Ahsan Iqbal as a “failed attempt to restrict political activity”.
“The culture of intolerance in this country must be discouraged,” he asserted. “Extremism should not harm the political process, and all schools of thought must come together to condemn these acts of terror.” “We will need to take organised steps to curb this culture of intolerance.
All political parties are united in creating a favourable political environment for timely elections and the continuation of the democratic process,” he added.
“The entire nation is strongly opposed to extremism and intolerance.” Leader of the Opposition in Senate Sherry Rehman strongly condemned the incident and said the attack was “a message” for politicians and that an environment of fear was deliberately being created.
She vowed that political forces would fight the situation and would not allow for any more violence. “It would be incorrect to call the incident an accident,” PPP Senator Raza Rabbani noted, adding that the fall-back of the incident needs to be analysed. “This is the result of attempts to mainstream banned organisations,” he further said, adding that the situation is deliberately being worsened so that elections can be postponed.
Abid Hussain shot the minister at close range with a 30-bore pistol but was overpowered before he could fire more bullets.
In initial probe, the arrested suspect claimed to be belonging to a religious organisation Tehreek Labaik Ya Rasul Allah (TLYR) and stated ruling party’s last year bid to change a law about the finality of the prophethood as the motive. But TLYR condemned the attack.
This was also reiterated by Abid Hussain in his confessing statement. Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif – who also heads the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz – suspected a greater sinister behind the gory incident that follows a series of blows to the ruling party.
Suspicions about suspect’s claim
Though Ahsan Iqbal earlier in the day also held a meeting with a Christian group, a police source said, “We are not sure whether it [attack] has got anything to do with the [stated] motive… We will know only after investigation of the attacker.”
The TLYR, which claims to be a defender of the honour of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAW), announced its disassociation from the attacker and strongly condemned the shooting at the minister.
Rising from ashes of Mumtaz Qadri – who was hanged for assassinating ex-Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer – Tehreek-e-Labaik has emerged as a strong pressure group and it has caused quite a stir in the national politics during last few years under the leadership of its firebrand leader Khadim Hussain Rizvi.
Last year Rizvi spearheaded a rally on the issue of changes in an electoral declaration about the finality of the prophethood.
The TLYR, along with some other religious groups, then staged a weeks-long sit-in on a key bridge connecting the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi, bringing miseries to the commuters. The sit-in ended after an agreement brokered by the military which made the government surrender to the demands of the agitators. The apparent grossness and illegality of the agreement made the Supreme Court to take a suo moto notice on the issue.
Abid Hussain claims to be the office bearer of the religious party TLYRP.He confessed to his involvement in the crime, saying he wanted to target Ahsan Iqbal for government’s alleged attempt to amend an election declaration regarding finality of Prophet Muhammad (PUBH). He is youth leader of the Islamist Tehreek-eLabbaik party, police said in an interrogation report.
Hussain told police he was inspired by the teachings of founders of the Labbaik and joined a party blockade of the capital, Islamabad, in November aimed at forcing out a government minister they accused of blasphemy over a change to an oath-taking law. According to police, Hussain said he had dreamt Ali Hajveri, an 11th century Muslim preacher revered in South Asia, “ordered me to kill Ahsan Iqbal”. Labbaik denied that Hussain was a member of the party.
“We have nothing to do with him,” spokesman Ejaz Ashrafi told Reuters. But a founding member of Labbaik, Pir Afzal Qadri, said Iqbal and his Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party had invited trouble by committing blasphemy when they changed an election law in a way some said weakened an oath declaring Mohammad the last true prophet. “They have done so much wrong,” Qadri said in a video message. “It is their fault, they themselves are responsible for this. These people are inviting attacks.”
Abid Hussain appeared before the anti-terror court in Gujranwala city on Monday, where he was remanded into custody for ten days. Earlier, he was wrestled to the ground by officers and bystanders as he was preparing to fire a second shot. Police are investigating whether the attack could have had any religious motive.
A local official said that the shooter said he was inspired by a controversy last year in which a small amendment to the oath election candidates must swear had to be hastily reversed after it was linked to blasphemy, a highly inflammatory charge in the deeply conservative Muslim country.