The police colluded in the dramatic escape of terror suspect Rashid Rauf, who was allegedly involved in a plot to blow up United States-bound airliners in Britain in 2006, a high-level probe by Pakistani authorities has concluded.
It also dismissed claims by Rauf's police guards that he slipped away after being allowed to pray in a mosque while being taken back to his prison from here to nearby Rawalpindi.
Rauf's escape on December 15 after being produced in a court here has become a major embarrassment for the government of President Pervez Musharraf. Despite claims by caretaker Interior Minister Hamid Nawaz Khan that police had gathered some leads, authorities are yet to trace the fugitive who has been linked to Al Qaeda.
The report of the probe committee into the escape, submitted to the government on Thursday, disputed claims by Islamabad police that Rauf escaped while he was being taken from Islamabad to Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi. It also described the claim by his two police guards that he mysteriously disappeared from the mosque as 'concocted'.
"The escape was made good in the vicinity of F-8 Markaz, the district court in Islamabad, and right after the hearing. And it is not a case of negligence, but a case of criminal collusion with the accused and facilitating him to escape," The Dawn newspaper quoted the report as saying.
F-8 Markaz is located in the heart of Islamabad. Police constables Mohammad Tufail and Nawabzada, who were guarding Rauf, had claimed that he had slipped out of the back door of a mosque in Rawalpindi after they allowed him to offer afternoon prayers there on Saturday.
A source close to the probe said Rauf's uncle had initially told the Senior Superintendent of Police that Rauf escaped from F-8 Markaz.
The report concluded that Rauf's escape was not the fault of only the two constables, and the entire headquarters establishment of the Islamabad Capital Territory police was responsible for not taking 'appropriate security measures'.
The report on the escape of Rauf, a Briton of Pakistani origin, also noted that the superintendent of Adiala Jail had asked Islamabad's Superintendent of Police to provide 'necessary police guards' for taking the suspect to court on December 15. But the request, made on December 10, was ignored, it said.
It pointed out several inconsistencies in the accounts of Rauf's escape given by constables Tufail and Nawabzada. The constables, who have been arrested, had claimed they had taken Rauf from the court in his uncle Muhammad Rafiq's van and stopped at a McDonald's outlet in Rawalpindi for a meal.
Though both constables claimed they were guarding Rauf, their mobile phone call records suggested that Nawabzada was at one location while Tufail was somewhere else.
The two constables had transported Rauf from Adiala Jail to Islamabad on three previous occasions for court appearances. On all these occasions, the constables illegally took Rauf to his uncle's home before taking him back to jail.
The report said it was 'amazing' that only two constables picked up Rauf from the jail on December 15.
While handing over the prisoner, the jail authorities got a paper signed asking for extra security arrangements as he was a 'desperate and dangerous criminal'.
The jail record said, "The accused is a dangerous person and involved in international activities. Therefore, he needed strict security. If any mishap happened with him while going to Islamabad the in-charge police will be responsible".