Rao Anwar says; “I killed 500 people but they were terrorists”

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KARACHI: In his first reaction to US action against him, the former infamous senior superintendent of police in Karachi, Rao Anwar claimed that United States’ move to blacklist him for human rights abuses was an attempt to “divert attention from the struggle for occupied Kashmir”.

In a video that surfaced on social media on Wednesday, a day after the US announced its move, the former police official — known infamously as an ‘encounter specialist’ and accused of involvement in nearly 200 phoney encounters — said: “I was an SSP of the police force and we fight against terrorists. There were nearly 400, 500 or 440 terrorists [who were killed]. There is not a single complaint against me that I killed anyone out of greed or in a fake encounter.

“Even today, two years after my removal, there has been no complaint.” Anwar demanded the US government to “apologise or prove” the charges against him. He added that he would file a case in Washington against the move through his lawyer and also write a letter to the US embassy.

“Name one suspect who said that I cooperated […] or used to do mix-ups. Forget American, [authorities] can punish me in Pakistan.”

On Tuesday, the US administration blacklisted Anwar for engaging in “serious human rights abuse” by carrying out alleged fake police ‘encounters’ in which scores of individuals, including Waziristan native Naqeebullah Mehsud, were killed.

“During his tenure as the Senior Superintendent of Police in District Malir, Pakistan, Rao Anwar Khan (Anwar) was reportedly responsible for staging numerous fake police encounters in which individuals were killed by police, and was involved in over 190 police encounters that resulted in the deaths of over 400 people, including the murder of Naqeebullah Mehsood,” the US Treasury had said in a statement.

Naqeebullah’s murder

Anwar had retired from police service while being suspended and facing trial for killing four men, including South Waziristan youngster Mehsud, in a fake encounter last year.

After protests by the civil society and anger on social media, the Supreme Court had last year taken suo motu notice and ordered Anwar’s arrest. Protests staged by the Mehsud tribe and the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) had also lent impetus to the call for justice for Naqeeb.

According to media report, Anwar had gone into hiding soon after demands for his arrest gained traction after it came to light that Mehsud had been a shopkeeper and an aspiring model from Waziristan who had settled in Karachi.

He was arrested in March 2018 when he finally appeared before the Supreme Court after eluding law enforcement agencies for over a month. After spending more than three months in prison, an anti-terrorism court granted him bail which led to his release.

US action

The United States has imposed sanctions on infamous Karachi police officer Rao Anwar for his role in “serious human rights abuses” during his tenure as Senior Superintendent Police in the provincial capital of Sindh.

In a statement issued on its website marking the International Human Rights Day, its Deputy Secretary Justin G Muzinich said the action “focuses on those who have killed, or ordered the killing of innocents who stood up for human rights including journalists, opposition members, and lawyers”.

In addition to Anwar, the US blacklisted 17 individuals located in Burma, Libya, Slovakia, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and South Sudan for their roles in serious human rights abuse, according to the statement.

“Additionally, six entities have been designated for being owned or controlled by one of the aforementioned individuals,” it added.

During his tenure as the Senior Superintendent of Police in District Malir, Pakistan, Rao Anwar was reportedly responsible for staging numerous fake police encounters in which individuals were killed by police, and was involved in over 190 police encounters that resulted in the deaths of over 400 people, including the murder of Naqeebullah Mehsud, the US Treasury Department said.

“Anwar helped to lead a network of police and criminal thugs that were allegedly responsible for extortion, land grabbing, narcotics, and murder.  Anwar is designated for being responsible for or complicit in, or having directly or indirectly engaged in, serious human rights abuse,” it read.

As a result of the actions of the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), Rao Anwar’s property in the US or in control of US persons is to be “blocked and must be reported to the OFAC”.

“Unless authorized by a general or specific license issued by OFAC or otherwise exempt, OFAC’s regulations generally prohibit all transactions by US persons or within (or transiting) the United States that involve any property or interests in property of designated or otherwise blocked persons,” it added.

The US Treasury also blacklisted four Myanmar military leaders, including the commander-in-chief, in the toughest action taken yet by Washington for alleged human rights abuses against the Rohingya and other minorities.

The sanctions targeted Commander-in-Chief of the Burmese military forces Min Aung Hlaing, Deputy Commander-in-Chief Soe Win, Than Oo, a leader of the 99th Light Infantry Division, and Aung Aung, a leader of the 33rd Light Infantry Division, the Treasury said.

The military in Myanmar has denied accusations of widespread abuses and says its actions were part of a fight against terrorism.