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.