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Punjab govt to check claims made by Dr Shahid Masood in Zainab rape-murder case

26 January, 2018

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LAHORE/ISLAMABAD: The Punjab government has raised the strength of the joint investigation team (JIT) and expanded its scope following revelations by television anchor Dr Shahid Masood that the prime suspect in the Zainab rape-murder case — apart from operating foreign currency accounts — has links with some people who are running an international child pornography ring.

The additional chief secretary (home) has notified two more members — Punjab Forensic Science Agency director general and an official of the State Bank — to be part of the now seven-member JIT. The provincial government had on Jan 11 constituted the JIT to investigate the Zainab murder case registered on Jan 4.

The tragic murder of Zainab was given a new twist on Thursday when Dr Masood handed over to Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar two names in a folded paper who, he claimed, were behind an international racket running a child pornography ring.

Later talking to journalists, he claimed that one of them was a sitting federal minister but kept the name secret, saying the disclosure might endanger the life of Mohammad Imran — the suspected killer of the Kasur girl who was arrested on Tuesday.

Dr Masood was summoned by the chief justice after the former had in his programme on TV channel News One claimed that the suspect maintained over 37 bank accounts mostly in foreign currency with transactions in dollar, euro and pound sterling.

In his programme, the anchor had requested the chief justice, the prime minister and the army chief to take notice of these facts, claiming that the rapist was neither a psychic, deranged or an insane person nor a simpleton.

The Supreme Court is already seized with a suo motu case about Zainab’s rape and murder.

During Thursday’s proceedings, Assistant Advocate General for Punjab Asma Hamid informed the apex court that Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif had constituted a six-member committee comprising officials of the Intelligence Bureau, State Bank of Pakistan and Punjab Forensic Science Agency to look into the allegations levelled by the anchorperson.

Soon after the case was taken up by a three-judge SC bench, the chief justice ordered the court staff to dim the lights so that the video footage of Dr Masood’s programme could be run through the multimedia facility in the Courtroom No 1.

After watching the video, the chief justice explained that the gravity of the allegations levelled by the anchorperson had forced the court to summon Dr Masood on such a short notice and said the entire responsibility of protecting the suspect would be on the Punjab inspector general in case of police custody, and on the IG prisons in case of his judicial custody.

The chief justice asked Dr Masood to provide details of the bank accounts so that these could be provided to investigators who would ascertain whether or not the allegations were correct, saying that truth would soon surface.

Dr Masood said he came to know about the international scam during his visit abroad, adding that the suspect enjoyed the backing of a very influential personality. He regretted that the Kasur incident was being discussed all over the world.

He raised concerns about the security of the suspect, saying he feared attempts might be made on his life in police custody and requested the court to hand over the suspect to other institutions.

The chief justice also conceded that the safety and security of the suspect was of great importance at this juncture, but rejected the idea of shifting the suspect from police custody.

The court asked the anchorperson to provide the list of bank accounts of the suspect as well as the transcript of his TV programme. It directed the Punjab government, IGP and the joint investigation team (JIT) to submit a comprehensive reply to the allegations levelled by the anchorperson.

Justice Ijaz-ul-Ahsan asked Dr Masood to provide any other information he might have in his possession.

The case will be taken up on Monday (Jan 29).

A senior official told reporters that the Punjab government had requested the State Bank to assist it in identifying whether there was any truth that suspect Imran held foreign currency accounts.

“The JIT has requested State Bank governor to provide information about all bank accounts held and all transactions made by suspect Imran,” the official said.

Following Dr Masood’s programme, rumours were rife that the government had started quizzing senior government officials as well as MNAs and MPAs over links with Imran and the international pornography ring. However, a senior official said these were just rumours.

Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah also brushed aside the anchorperson’s claims and demanded that he [Dr Masood] be banned from appearing on TV shows if his revelations were proved wrong.

The Federal Investigation Agency also launched its probe into the alleged foreign currency accounts of the suspect and his alleged links with the pornography network.

Meanwhile, a Punjab police spokesman said the Kasur JIT members had begun regular interrogation of the suspect following his 14-day physical remand obtained from a special court. He said all aspects of the case were being observed through modern and scientific means, besides getting information about other incidents of sexual abuse.

“The JIT members have met the heirs of two other girl victims, but could not meet the father of Zainab as he was not well,” the spokesman said, adding that another meeting was scheduled with Zainab’s father.

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