Key absconding suspect in TV journalist’s murder case held after nine years

KARACHI: The Karachi police on Monday claimed to have arrested a key suspect, who had been handed death sentence in absentia by an antiterrorism court, in TV journalist Wali Khan Babar’s murder case after more than nine years since the incident.

The suspect was identified as Sheikh Mohammad Kamran alias Zeeshan and the announcement of his arrest apparently came as a major development for the police and the Pakistan Peoples Party government in the province, as the two sides held a joint press conference and called it a “great success” of law enforcement agencies for finally succeeding in putting all the suspects of the high-profile murder behind bars.

Babar, 29, associated with Geo News, was gunned down on Jan 30, 2011 while he was driving back home near Liaquatabad No 10. Syed Mohammad Ali Rizvi, Shahrukh alias Mani, Naveed alias Polka, Shakil alias Malik, and other suspects had been indicted for the murder. Another suspect in the murder case, Liaquat, was killed in an alleged police encounter near Seaview in May 2012.

Police say suspect Kamran belonged to MQM-London and shot Wali Babar in January 2011

The Sindh High Court in August 2017, however, had set aside a death sentence handed down by the ATC to suspect Faisal Mehmood alias Mota and ordered retrial of the case in the relevant lower court.

“The killer of journalist Wali Khan Babar has been arrested,” Sindh Information Minister Nasir Shah told a press conference along with Karachi police chief Ghulam Nabi Memon.

“The police team deserves congratulations and we believe that all those involved in the murder of Wali Khan Babar including the key suspect would be brought to justice soon. The PPP believes in freedom of press and promotes freedom of expression. He [suspect Kamran alias Zeeshan] is a key man who had shot Babar. The chief minister has specially congratulated the police team.”

The city police chief said that the arrest was made with the assistance of a federal intelligence agency and the Special Investigation Unit of the police that conducted a successful raid on Monday morning.

“After the killing he kept changing places of living and for quite some time he had even used Nine Zero [once the headquarters of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement] as his hideout,” he said. “Apart from the killing of Wali Babar, during the course of our initial probe, he has also confessed to have committed four other murders. He was an active worker of the MQM-London and also involved in land grabbing and china-cutting activities in Ahsanabad.”

The murder of Babar remained a major challenge for investigators and also for the media, which came under serious threats amid growing violence and criminal activities between 2008 and 2013.

The case is still a mystery for many as five key witnesses of the murder and a prosecutor representing the state’s case in court were killed one after another.

Former Sindh home minister Dr Zulfikar Mirza, who is now one of the vocal opponents of the PPP, was the first who accused the MQM and its founder Altaf Hussain of the killing.

The suspects later arrested and then convicted were also said to be active members of the party but the motive behind their action and killing of the young journalist were still not known.

However, the Karachi police chief came up with a vague argument when asked about the possible motive behind the organised killing of the journalist and then killings of the witnesses.

“Before joining journalism, Babar was quite an active member of the Pakhtun Students Federation. And when he joined the profession, he actively engaged himself in stories exposing MQM-London and its chief Altaf Hussain,” claimed Mr Memon, without mentioning any of the stories of the slain journalist which affected the interest of the London-based leader and helped expose his alleged criminal activities.

Meanwhile, the Karachi police chief hoped that more arrests could be made in the light of findings of the investigation being conducted by the police against Kamran.

He said the suspect had joined the MQM-London in 2008 and the murder was actually planned in London.

“According to Kamran, the pistol used in the killing was provided by Faisal Mota and he spotted the car near the busy Liaquatabad Supermarket, fired shots at the target and ran away,” he added.


GB doctors protest lack of PPEs, facilities in hospitals

GILGIT: The health professionals staged a protest sit-in here on Monday to demand provision of PPEs and availability of facilities for treatment of Covid-19 patients in hospitals.

The Protesters announced to continue their protest till acceptance of their demands.

Gilgit-Baltistan Grand Health Alliance had called the protest.

About 400 nurses, paramedical staff and doctors from all the districts of GB gathered outside the district headquarters hospital, Gilgit, and marched towards the Chief Minister’s House in Chinar Bagh, where they staged a sit-in blocking the River Road.

The protesters were wearing masks and holding banners inscribed with their demands.

Ejaz Ayub, former president Young Doctors Association, told Dawn that health professionals from across the region had been protesting for last one week for acceptance of their demands, but the government was unmoved.

He said it was injustice that the health professionals were not being provided incentives like other parts of the country. He said hospitals lacked capacity to treat coronavirus patients.

Another protester said doctors and the paramedics treating the Covid-19 patients in remote areas had no protection gear.

The doctors demanded construction of 100-bed hospitals in every district, payment of salaries to health professionals similar to other parts of the country, payment of incentives announced by Chief minister Hafeezur Rehman, regularisation of all contractual doctors, nurses and paramedics, promotion of health professionals under service structure and security of doctors in hospitals.

Meanwhile, the representatives of Grand Health Alliance met the chief minister to apprise him of their demands.

The chief minister assured them of resolving their issues within two days.

Mill owners not selling sugar at Rs70 per kg, IHC told

ISLAMABAD: The federal government on Monday informed the Islamabad High Court (IHC) that sugar mills were not complying with the condition of selling the commodity at Rs70 per kg to non-commercial consumers, hence, proceedings against them as recommended by the inquiry commission could not be stayed.

IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah on June 11 granted stay order against the recommendation of the inquiry commission on sugar scam that urged registration of criminal cases against sugar mill owners on the condition that they would supply the commodity to the common man at the rate of Rs70 per kg till June 25.

The petitioners included the Pakistan Sugar Mills Association (PSMA), sugar mills owned by Jahangir Khan Tareen and his son Ali Khan Tareen, Suleman Shahbaz Sharif, the son of opposition leader Shahbaz Sharif, Makhdoom Omer Shehryar, brother of federal Minister for Economic Affairs Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtiar, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf leader Sardar Ali Raza Khan Dreshak and others.

According to the report of the commission, Pakistan exported more than four million tonnes of sugar over the past five years and more than Rs29 billion had been given to sugar mills in terms of export subsidy.ARTICLE CONTINUES AFTER AD

Lawyer says govt has no objection if court allows farmers to become a party in this matter

The court on Monday took up a petition filed by sugarcane farmers who intended to become party in this case.

Additional Attorney General Tariq Mehmood Khokhar told the court that the government had no objection if the court would allow the farmers to become a party in this matter.

He then informed the court that the sugar mills were not fulfilling the condition set by the court while granting them interim relief till June 25.

He said that on the contrary the price of the commodity had also been increased as the sugar mafia created an artificial shortage in the market.

Mr Khokhar requested the court to hear this case as early as possible.

While Justice Minallah was willing to hear this case on June 17, Mr Khokhar suggested that this might be fixed for June 19.

The court accepted his request and suggested that in case the counsel of sugar industry could not attend the proceeding in the IHC, he might join the hearing via a video link from Karachi.

Israel builds new Jerusalem road that will link settlements as government weighs West Bank annexation

Construction is under way on a major new ring road for Jerusalem that Israeli officials say will benefit all of its residents, but critics of the project say is another obstacle to Palestinian hopes to make East Jerusalem the capital of a future state.

The bypass, called The American Road, will connect Jewish settlements in the Israeli-occupied West Bank that are north and south of Jerusalem.

The central and southern sections of the road are already being built, and tenders for the northernmost stretch — at a projected cost of $187 million — will be issued toward the end of the year, a Jerusalem municipality official told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

In total, the project, which will run along or near the outer rim of East Jerusalem, is forecast to cost more than a quarter of a billion dollars.

Israel annexed East Jerusalem, in a move that has not won international recognition, after capturing the area, along with the West Bank and Gaza Strip, in the 1967 war.

The construction comes as the Israeli government is set to begin cabinet-level discussions from July 1 about implementing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s election promise to annex Jewish settlements in the West Bank — a planned step that is sparking growing international criticism.

Peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians broke down in 2014.

Israeli officials say the road, which will include a 1.6 kilometre tunnel east of the Mount of Olives, will ease traffic congestion for both Israelis and Palestinians living in the area.

“It doesn’t unite the settlements. It’s not about uniting borders or municipal lines,” said Arieh King, a Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem and a leading figure in the city’s settler movement.

“But it does connect them more on the daily level — whether it’s studies, tourism or commerce. And then in practice you create a huge Jerusalem metropolis.”

Palestinians say that the new road will primarily benefit settlers, and will further undermine the feasibility of East Jerusalem as the capital of the state they seek in the West Bank and Gaza.

“This project cuts off Palestinian neighbourhoods within the city from one another,” Fadi Al Hidmi, the Palestinian Minister of Jerusalem Affairs, said via email.

Responding to questions from Reuters, Al-Hidmi said The American Road was part of Israel’s “illegal” ring road project, which “surrounds occupied East Jerusalem to further connect Israeli settlements and sever the occupied Palestinian capital from the rest of the West Bank”.

Israel’s West Bank settlements were built by successive governments on land captured in the 1967 war. More than 400,000 Israelis now live there, with another 200,000 in East Jerusalem.

Palestinians say the settlements make a future state unviable, and most of the world views them as illegal under international law. Israel disputes this, citing its security needs and biblical and historical ties to the land on which they are built.

King said the highway would be a “significant corridor” from the Gush Etzion settlement bloc in the southern West Bank and settlements such as Har Homa south of the city centre, to settlements to the north and east of Jerusalem, including Maale Adumim, which is home to more than 40,000 people.

Arab residents in East Jerusalem neighbourhoods such as Umm Tuba and Sur Baher would also benefit, he said, because it would reduce their travel times.

Israel’s transport ministry directed questions to the Jerusalem municipality.

Daniel Seidemann, an Israeli attorney who represented some Palestinian families affected by the construction, told Reuters that the bypass fitted into a long-time strategy by Israel of using infrastructure projects to secure “de facto annexation” of territory.

“What we are seeing here is, again, the seamless integration of the northern West Bank, East Jerusalem under sole Israeli control, and the southern West Bank for the purposes of the settlers,” said Seidemann, who specialises in the geopolitics of Jerusalem.

“That is the motivation, and the fact that it will benefit a Palestinian East Jerusalemite somewhat is collateral spinoff, but not more than that.”

Planning documents reviewed by Reuters and visits to the area to plot the route show the road will run for more than eight kilometres.

Dozens of Palestinians living along the route of The American Road pointed to such factors as the scope of the construction and the proximity of the highway’s northern and southern ends to major settlements as evidence that the bypass was designed primarily for settlers.

The scale of The American Road project, named after a decades-old narrow road that winds through southeast Jerusalem, is evident some four kilometres from the city centre, where a huge bridge is rising in a remote valley.

The grey edifice, which can’t be seen from outside the valley, towers over the rural landscape. At the site, cement-mixers rumble through the hill-hugging Palestinian neighbourhoods of Sur Baher and Jabal al-Mukabar toward the 230-metre-long structure.

Billboards advertise an August 2021 completion date for a section of The American Road nearest Har Homa, the settlement built by Netanyahu in the 1990s that overlooks the Palestinian town of Bethlehem.

“We lived in a paradise, and now we will live under a highway,” said Khader Attoun, whose house looks directly over the bridge. “Israel wants to squeeze us out of our land and confine us to our tiny homes, to let settlers drive on highways through the valley of our ancestors.”