Attackers of ex-Pemra chief arrested

Umar Cheema
Wednesday, Jul 06, 2022

ISLAMABAD: Police have arrested the accused who shot at and injured journalist and ex-Pemra chairman Absar Alam last year.

The attackers not only confessed to making a life attempt on Absar Alam but also admitted that they were tasked to hit Asad Toor, another journalist. They, however, had to change the plan after a hype created after the attack on Absar.

In a typical fashion of transnational crime which is carried out in a manner that leaves little-to-no evidence behind, it was revealed that the attack was ordered from Germany, outsourced to a person in Sheikhupura who hired attackers from Khushab whereas residential location of Absar and payment to target him were made in Lahore and Rawalpindi. Work on this started in February 2021. Absar was attacked in April and Asad in May.

Zain Ghayyas was the task-master who assigned this project to Hammad Suleman. Zain, 32, is a proclaimed offender in a murder case in his native Gujrat district and has moved to Germany. He tasked this to Hammad, 23, through his cousin, Shahnawaz, who lives in Greece.

A resident of Sheikhupura district, Hammad was a wireless operator in the army when court-martialed after two years of his service. The shooter for Absar was hired from Khushab. In total, there were eight individuals involved.

Their link with the attack on Absar was determined by sheer luck when Hammad was arrested in February this year in a robbery case by the Sheikhupura police. However, during the course of investigation, police came to know through informers about Hammad’s involvement in attacks on journalists. During interrogation, he also confessed to his involvement in a drug business at a small level.

The initial groundwork for the attacks on Absar and Asad -- such as routine reconnaissance, recognition of their faces, the photographs of their houses and even information about mosques they go for prayers -- was done by the local team headed by Hammad. He, later, hired Nadeem Asghar who shot at Absar while he was on his walk in the park outside his home.

Hammad told the police that they kept watching Absar’s house for many weeks but his movement out of his home was quite limited. In the meantime, they were assigned the recce of Asad Toor and his whereabouts.

To smoke out Absar, Zain initially gave them the plan to attack Asad who was then living a few streets away from Absar. Attack on Asad would prompt Absar to go out to see him either in the hospital or at his house. As soon as Absar would emerge from his house, he would be attacked. But in the meantime, Zain received the info that Absar had resumed his daily walk so they should defer the attack on Asad and go for Absar. To give a legitimate cover to the attack, Zain had told Hammad that there was an honour issue involved whereas Asad was to be beaten because he was a protégé of Absar.

Hammad agreed to do so in return of around Rs1.5 million which he received on three occasions. Deal was initially settled at Rs1 million. For this, Hammad went to Lahore’s R.A. Bazar on Zain’s instruction to collect money from a man who was on a Vezel (Honda) whereas the man who shared the address of Absar met Hammad outside the Pearl Continental Hotel.

From there onwards, the recce of Absar's house was started in Islamabad. They would come on a rented car from Sheikhupura to visit the area and make videos. After finishing their day’s assignment, they would go to either Bari Imam or Golra Sharif to pay respects.

In the meantime, Zain sent them another Rs150,000 for operational purposes other than promising to arrange jobs for them in the Middle East after this operation. Another amount Hammad received from an old man somewhere near a metro station in Rawalpindi. He was the same guy who had earlier paid him in Lahore’s R.A. Bazar.

During the entire episode, Hammad said he would travel from Sheikhupura to the twin cities. He would first use the public transport and later a rented car after funds started flowing in. Hamid Amin, his friend from Sheikhupura, would accompany him to Absar’s place. The shooter, Nadeem Asghar Virk, was from Khushab. Others who were engaged for deployment were Muhammad Ramzan (Bhakkar), Rizwan Ali (Sheikhupura), Muhammad Ramzan (Khushab) and Shehbaz Rasheed.

As the time passed without progress, Zain got frustrated. In the advent of the holy month of Ramzan, a new addition was made to the list. That was the name of Asad Toor. They also started surveilling him. As firing at Absar generated a lot of hue and cry, Hammad planned an attack on Asad. However, this task was shifted to someone else. For that purpose, Hammad was asked to wait for someone on Golra Road. There a man of his age wearing a blue cap appeared. Hammad shared with him the address of Asad and he went away. While two different sets of individuals carried out attacks, the task-master remained the same, Zain. On whose direction Zain did this would only be made known after he is repatriated to Pakistan for investigation.