Rao Anwar, his team acquitted of Naqeebullah's murder.

KARACHI -- In a ruling that was roundly criticised, an anti-terrorism court on Monday acquitted former Malir SSP Rao Anwar and his 17 subordinates over the infamous encounter that left Naqeebullah Mehsud and three others dead five years ago, citing 'lack of evidence to prove their presence at the crime scene'.

'I am of the considered view that the prosecution since has failed to bring home guilt of the accused beyond any reasonable doubt and for giving benefit of doubt to an accused it is not necessary that there should be many circumstances creating doubt. One single circumstance leading towards the real doubt is sufficient to acquit the accused. I, therefore, extend benefit of doubt to accused,' concluded the judge in the 43-page judgement released late in the night.

The judge gave his ruling after declaring that all the four citizens had been killed 'extrajudicially in a fake police encounter'.

The 2018 killing of Naqeebullah, a 27-year-old aspiring model from South Waziristan residing in Karachi, had shocked the nation as social media was stormed with public outcry and there were countrywide protests by civil society against the state's failure to arrest the former SSP, the prime suspect, and his team.

Ruling says accused's presence at site of 'fake shootout' not proved; verdict set to be challenged

In April 2018, the then army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa met Naqeeb's father at his residence and offered condolences, assuring him that the army would support all efforts aimed at getting him justice.

The ATC XVI judge, who conducted the trial at the judicial complex inside the central prison, pronounced the verdict which was reserved on Jan 14 at the conclusion of the proceedings.

The judge ruled that since the trial court had alAready declared the encAounter - in which the four victims were killed by dubbing them as militants linked to the militant Islamic State group and Taliban - as 'fake and false' in January 2020, therefore, 'this fact will remain intact' as no one had challenged it, counsel for the accused and the complainant quoted the judge as saying in his short order.

However, the judge obsAerved, the call data record and geo-fencing analysis of the mobile phones of Rao Anwar and other accused had failed to prove their 'presence at the place of fake shootout', added the counsel.

Secondly, the judge ruled, the charge of four victims' kidnapping before the murder had also become 'doubtful since there were major contradictions in...

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