Dr Usman Anwar, who was appointed the Inspector General of the 202,076-strong Punjab police in January, is the seventh official to be named the top cop in the province in the last four years.
A few months after Anwar took office, deadly clashes erupted between the police and supporters of former prime minister Imran Khan.
More recently, Anwar came under criticism for his handling of the attack on over two dozen churches in the province and for the arrest of Parvez Elahi, the former chief minister of Punjab and the president of Khan’s party, under his watch.
The Lahore High Court (LHC) and the Islamabad High Court (IHC) both have termed Elahi’s arrest illegal.
On the morning of September 5, Geo.tv spoke to Dr Usman Anwar about the law and order situation in his province, the arrest of politicians belonging to Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) post-May 9, the blasphemy-related violence in Jaranwala and the death of a political worker, Zille Shah.
The interview has been edited for brevity and clarity. Below is a transcript of what was told to Geo.tv on-the-record, during a two-hour-long interview:
The LHC had ordered your deputy inspector general (DIG) to escort Elahi home. Yet, men in civilian clothes forcefully took Elahi in a car with no license plate. Will you take action against your DIG?
Anwar: The superintendent of police [from Islamabad] was in uniform. There was a lawful order [Maintenance of Public Order] given to us [the DIG] at the time, which the court will of course decide if the order is lawful or not.
The LHC has decided. They say it was not lawful.
Anwar: The Islamabad High Court will decide. How can the LHC instruct Islamabad? (After the interview, the IHC also declared the arrest prima facie without lawful authority).
The LHC had ruled that a Maintenance of Public Order (MPO) order passed in Islamabad cannot be implemented in any other province.
Anwar: The MPO can be implemented all over Pakistan. The LHC can call it illegal, but at that time it was lawful. What should have happened then? Should there have been an exchange of fire between two forces [Punjab police and Islamabad police]?
The unknown men dragged the former chief minister into a car with no number plate.
Anwar: No, the style of the police is such when they come in a car, with a number plate or no number plate… Listen, my own car’s number plate is changed every day or so.
But the LHC had ordered that he cannot be arrested in any case.
Anwar: It [Islamabad] is not LHC’s jurisdiction.
Should the DIG have just handed over someone when the court had given him direct orders to escort Elahi home?
Anwar: There was a legal order and we handed him over. We did not do anything illegal.
When they [Islamabad police] came what should we have done? Should we have started firing?
Moving on. You admitted in a recent press conference that you have phone records and WhatsApp messages of PTI leadership in connection to May 9. Which court was this evidence presented in?
Anwar: We have submitted it to the anti-terrorism court. There is proof for each and everything.
It is illegal though to record someone’s phone conversation or keep tabs on WhatsApp messages without court permission.
Anwar: This is not surveillance. We got someone’s phone then we got the phone’s forensics done and for us, that is incriminating and admissible evidence.
When we [arrest] someone, we can open their phones by putting in their password through facial recognition. Then we can open their WhatsApp groups too, by using their thumb impressions.
How do you have phone recordings?
Anwar: We are not using those. We did not even put them in [as evidence].
What is the formula for arrest? Okay, let me explain. You [the accused] will be caught on CCTV cameras, then you will be located through geofencing. Some [protesters] even put up their own videos from inside Jinnah House.
Then, we got their NADRA record. In some cases, when we arrested someone he would tell us so and so was also with me. Then, he will also be in these WhatsApp groups.
Regarding the Jaranwala case, you recently spoke about there being a “hostile intelligence network” involved in the incident. What about the local element of the violence, the two men named in the FIR: Mufti Muhammad Younis Rizvi of Ahl-e Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ), and Asifullah Shah Bukhari Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), where are they now and why did you not name them in your press conference?
Anwar: The main person in the Jaranwala was Imran Mana. He was the main instigator. He has been arrested.
Another senior police officer, who asked not to be named and was privy to developments added: Besides Mana, 220 people have been arrested in connection to the case, of which 180 are on remand and 40 belong to the TLP.
Asifullah Shah Bukhari later assisted the police. He has not been arrested. Younis Rizvi had no role in the case. Only his mosque was used to make the allegation [of blasphemy].
The police are also investigating whether the two men accused of blasphemy in Jaranwala were framed due to personal enmity.
A political worker Ali Bilal, aka Zille Shah, was killed in March. The police say he died in a road accident. Several videos have been released regarding Bilal’s death but we have yet to see a video of the accident when a car allegedly hit him. When will the video be released?
Anwar: There are no [safe city] cameras in the Cantt area of Lahore. I wish there were. This [the accident] happened in [Cantt]. They [the Cantt authorities] have their own camera system, and they helped us.
Please go and meet Zille Shah’s family and ask them how the police dealt with them and what happened. It [the accident] was not even the fault of the person whose car hit Zille Shah.
From what we know Zille Shah was first hit by a motorcycle and then the car. They [those in the car] picked up his body and took him to the hospital.
What is the evidence then that he was indeed hit by a car?
Anwar: We have found the car. We have that man [in the car] and his statement. He recorded his statement in front of a magistrate and then in front of a judge.
There is no other evidence, except a statement?
Anwar: The man himself has said that he hit [Zille Shah]. Listen, when you record a statement in front of the magistrate your handcuffs are removed and the police cannot touch you. He made a statement there. Then, he made a statement in court that the accident happened due to his driver. We also found blood in his car.
Sorry to say this and this is a completely apolitical statement. He told his party’s leadership about this [the accident], and they told him to stay quiet.
We did not kill him.
What if the man whose car hit Bilal later says his statement was coerced?
Anwar: I can send the statement to you. You can read it. He has made it in court.
Then you should also ask this man who all in his party’s higher leadership told him about the accident? And they told him to stay quiet.
Listen, again, we do not have cameras in the area [Cantt]. On the record or off the record I promise we have not done anything to him. That is not our policy to kill anyone.