Missing evidence, lack of chemical examination mar Taseer murder investigation | Pakistan Today

Missing evidence, lack of chemical examination mar Taseer murder investigation

LAHORE – There is more to slain Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer’s assassination than his assassin Malik Mumtaz Qadri: key pieces of evidence have either been overlooked or have gone missing, Pakistan Today has learnt. Moreover, while the investigation team insists otherwise, the prosecution and the defence have verified that a chemical examination has not been conducted.
“A chemical examination was essential, especially in a case as high profile as this,” a senior Punjab Police official, who did not wish to be named, said. “Even if the investigation team has what is said to be the murder weapon, it is essential to establish legally, via a chemical examination, that the weapon was indeed the one – or that it was the only one – from which the bullets that killed the victim came from.”
Moreover, while Qadri was allotted a sub-machine gun (SMG) and two magazines, he had used only one magazine for the murder, superintendents of police Dr Khurram Rashid and Haroon Joya, who are part of the investigation team, told Pakistan Today. “He had filled this magazine to the brim with 30 bullets, and emptied the entire magazine within 3.5 seconds,” they said.
More than 30 bullets, however, were fired that day. According to the autopsy report, there were 29 bullet wounds on the governor’s body, while 27 bullets were recovered from it. Added to this are bullets that did not hit the target (three hit a nearby car and the wall of a restaurant). Rashid, however, was unable to explain how could a gun that could only hold 30 bullets fire 33.
“This was an open-and-shut case,” Rashid said. “We have the perpetrator, we have the murder weapon, and we have his confession.” CCTV footage from both establishments has also reportedly gone missing, sources told Pakistan Today, adding that on the evening of Jan 4, officials claiming to belong to the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) visited the two places, confiscated CCTV tapes, and left after threatening employees with “dire consequences” if they told anyone about the missing tapes.
The footage never reached the team that was investigating the murder, nor has the second person with whom Taseer was having lunch been identified. Snapshots of the murder site, available with Pakistan Today, also indicate a discrepancy in the number of injuries that the governor incurred at Kohsar Market and those that showed up later in the autopsy report.
“This difference is absolutely inexplicable,” the Punjab Police official said, adding that the nature of many of the wounds and the sizes of the exit wounds on Taseer’s body were consistent with an attack with a smaller weapon, rather than an assault rifle, such as an SMG. Other experts verified this and said the body of a victim who has been shot 29 times at close range with an SMG would have been completely mangled.
While SP Rashid insisted that this was what had happened to Taseer’s body too, pictures obtained from the murder site and from the operation theatre tell a different story altogether: his back and front torso, while wounded, were fairly intact. Footage gathered from the murder site by news channels also showed empty cartridges of a Tula-Tokarev (TT-30) along with SMG cartridges.
“The former are not only smaller in size, they also look distinctively different from SMG cartridges,” explained multiple security experts Pakistan Today consulted on the issue. “When he was arrested, Qadri had surrendered an SMG. He was not issued a TT, nor was he carrying one at the time.”
“The investigation team should have checked the weapons of the other personnel on Taseer’s security detail, as well as anyone else who accompanied him to the hospital,” a police official told Pakistan Today.
“All ammunition that has been issued officially has to be accounted for, and the investigation team should have verified if the other personnel had returned everything. Smaller weapons, such as a TT, are generally issued to ‘upper subordinates’ (thaanedar). During investigations, officials should have checked if officers of this rank were anywhere near Taseer that day. The fact that nothing of this sort was done, despite an obvious doubt that is raised by the nature of the wounds on the governor’s body, is shocking. The thoroughness of police investigations also depends on how closely the victim’s family follows up on the case. In this instance, Taseer’s family did not seem too concerned, and the police simply wrapped the case up as soon as they could.”
A botched investigation and missing evidence might allow Taseer’s identified assassin to get away with only around 14 years of imprisonment, with or without a fine. Qadri’s lead counsel and Rawalpindi Bar Association President Malik Waheed Anjum told Pakistan Today that Qadri had confessed to killing Taseer, but had pleaded not guilty to murder – a technicality that would allow the defence to bring in Section 302 C of the Pakistan Penal Code, rather than sections 302 A or 302 B.
The latter result in death sentences, Section 302 C, on the other hand, carries a maximum sentence of up to 25 years in prison, with or without a fine, and most offenders are freed within 12 to 14 years. “The fact that no chemical examination was conducted does not concern us. We are not contesting the fact that Qadri was involved in killing Taseer. We are, instead, handling the case on the basis of the quantum of the sentence,” Anjum said.
“We will argue that Qadri was faced with mitigating circumstances. He had no previous relationship with the victim, he had no personal enmity with Taseer and he had nothing to gain from killing him. As such, the crime was committed on the spur of a moment. This comes under Section 302 C of the PPC, and we expect him to get somewhere around 10 to 14 years in prison. We have also made preparations to appeal his sentence in the high court, as per Section 410 of the Criminal Procedure Code.”

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