ISLAMABAD: The caretaker Interior Minister Lieutenant General (Retired) Hamid Nawaz has reassured British officials that every effort would be made to recapture the 26-year-old fugitive, whose family lives in Birmingham. Laura Davies, a spokeswoman for the British high commission in Islamabad, said that Robert Brinkley, the UK’s high commissioner to Pakistan, had been assured by the interior minister that the capture of Rauf was “a top priority”. There would be an investigation into how he could have escaped.
The loss of Rauf, sought by Britain on grounds of alleged involvement over the murder of an uncle from the Midlands in 2002, is an embarrassment for the government of Pakistan.Rauf reportedly managed to open his handcuffs and lose two police guards on Saturday, minutes after appearing at an extradition hearing. The two police officers are being questioned.
Interior Secretary Kamal Shah, said that the two constables in charge of Rauf were being “interrogated for their criminal negligence”. Security teams were combing the country to find him, his photograph had been circulated to airports and Islamabad had been sealed off. Shah said an investigation team would file a report within three days.
Diplomats in Islamabad were giving the Pakistani authorities the benefit of the doubt. “The feeling is, it is a cock-up not conspiracy,” said one western official. “The Pakistanis were reluctant to give Rauf up at first but once they decided to allow an extradition they were seen to be helpful.”
There is deep frustration in the British intelligence community that Rauf, sometimes dubbed one of the UK’s most wanted men, had such light security and slipped away so easily. Counterterrorist sources acknowledged, however, that the Pakistan authorities had adopted a helpful attitude to the extradition request recently.
There is no extradition treaty between the UK and Pakistan but cooperation exists on a case by case basis. The Home Office added: “This [escape] is a matter for the Pakistani authorities. We have put in an extradition request for Rauf to face trial for the murder of his uncle.”
Rauf’s arrest last year triggered police raids in the UK and, for the public, stricter hand baggage rules on flights. Rauf holds joint British and Pakistani citizenship. His father, Abdul, said: “I don’t know anything – I’m shocked.” His family have denied he has had anything to do with terrorism.
Rauf has been in Pakistan since 2002 and is married to a relative of Maulana Masood Azhar, the founder of the Islamic group Jaish-e-Mohammed.-SANA