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Asia/Pacific - Pakistan - Other NRMs

Cult leader, followers sent to jail
("Dawn," December 16, 2005)

Faisalabad, Pakistan - Self-proclaimed Imam Mehdi Shahbaz Ahmad and his 25 cult members were sent to the district jail on a four-day judicial remand by the local anti-terrorism court on Friday. Police teams in tight security arrangements presented all cult members before the court following registration of a case against them under Sections 295-B and 295-C of the Blasphemy Act; 146, 148, 149, 186, 324, 353 and 427 of PPC, 16-MPO, 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act and 13/20/65.

Prosecutors told the court that the gangsters, headed by Shahbaz Ahmad, had committed blasphemy, attacked police parties, created harassment and used illegal weapons. Therefore, they should be given in police custody on physical remand.

The court turned down the plea and ordered their four-day judicial remand and sent them to the district jail.

Those sent to jail include Shahbaz Ahmad of Gojra; Naveed Ali, Sajid Ali, Tajdeen, Shahbaz Ahmad and Taj Ansari of Karachi; Mahmoodul Hasan, Mukhtar Ahmad, Abdul Rehman, Mohammad Ismail, Mohammad Iqbal, Atiqur Rahman, Zafar Iqbal, Zahid Arshad, Jawed Iqbal and Tahir Mahmood of Gojra; Ijaz Ahmad and Mohammad Iqbal of Pakpattan; Mohammad Ilyas of Dijkot; Shaukat Ali, Mohammad Yaseen and Talib Husain of Tarkhani, Samundri Town; Imran Hameed of Okara and Ishaq Nawaz of Mian Channu.

City DSP Malik Rahseed, in his report, said a group of 30 armed men appeared on Sargodha Road at 12 noon on Thursday (Dec 15) and publicly made an announcement that Imam Mehdi had appeared. They also fired at the people and the police, and threatened if their leader was not accepted as Imam Mehdi, the entire country would be destroyed and there would be a devastating quake.

In the meantime, the police parties headed by the SHOs of Nishatabad, D-Type, Civil Lines, Batala Colony, Gulberg and Factory Area reached there. The miscreants continued firing as a result of which a passerby, Younas, sustained injuries. The area people saved their lives by taking shelter in shops or by laying on the ground.

Meanwhile, Sadar, Jaranwala and People’s Colony DSPs, the Gulberg ASP and the special squad in-charge along with commandos rushed to the spot.

However, the gangsters reached the motorway through Kamalpur interchange by harassing toll plaza staff. When the police started their chase, they left their vehicles and opened fire on policemen. In the firing, their own accomplices, Naveed, Tahir, Babar Shafi and Abid, sustained injuries.

In the meantime, the gangsters intercepted a bus and hijacked its passengers.

The city district nazim, the SP headquarters and the SP city also joined the police force. When the People’s Colony DSP tried to take position near the gangsters, they intercepted him and forced him to hold talks with them. The gang leader also used objectionable remarks against the Holy Prophet (Peace be upon him) and asked the police to shift the injured to hospital.

The police adopted the way of negotiations, trapped the gangsters and finally succeeded in nabbing them.

Injured Babar died later while Naveed, Tahir and Abid were admitted to the Allied Hospital.

The police recovered 12 rifles, eight pistols, one gun, banners and armbands inscribed with ‘Deen-i-Younas’ from the arrested cult members.

CONFESSION: Shahbaz Ahmad, 40, admitting his mission’s failure, confessed on Friday that he had raped women relatives of his followers and sodomized children.

During preliminary investigation, Shahbaz said he had been in England for the last many years and returned to Pakistan in October this year. He started living in Karachi with his friends, Shahbaz, Naveed, Sajid and Ishaq and succeeded in prevailing upon them that he was ‘Imam Mehdi’.

Police said the accused raped the wife of one of his friends in Karachi besides criminally assaulting his children. He came to Faisalabad a couple of weeks ago and started living here in a flat near Nishatabad which was provided by the nephews of his follower Ilyas.

He said he succeeded in attracting 29 people towards his cult who accepted him as Imam Mehdi. His followers arranged Rs400,000 which he spent on the purchase of weapons from the tribal area. He also trained his followers in weapons’ use.