Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Story Of Rashid Rauf's Alleged Escape Could Fuel Suspicions: Diplomats

The official Pakistani account of Rashid Rauf's alleged escape is incomplete and self-contradictory, according to Western diplomats in Pakistan, as quoted by Laura King and Sebastian Rotella of the Los Angeles Times.

Rauf, who has been called "a key person" in the alleged plot of the so-called Liquid Bombers, escaped from police custody in Pakistan on Saturday, according to reports which reached us this weekend.

Conspiracy theorists take note: Diplomats half a world away are thinking of you!
Two Western diplomats in Pakistan, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the official Pakistani account of Rauf's alleged escape was incomplete and contained contradictions on key points. That, they said, could fuel suspicions of official complicity in the getaway.
If the story is incomplete and contradictory, it's also ludicrous -- but then, how could any chapter of the bizarre "Liquid Bombers" saga be otherwise?

It could fuel suspicions? Really? You think???

The alleged plot -- physically impossible but practically perfect in every other way -- needed a whimsical closing scene, in which the "key person" -- the mastermind or the messenger, certainly the al Qaeda connection -- disappears before any evidence can be presented against him. This sort of ending is especially handy -- as we have seen in other cases -- when there is no evidence to be presented.

The latest word from Pakistan is that Rashid Rauf's uncle, Muhammad Rafiq, was heavily involved in his "escape" -- that he attended Rashid Rauf's extradition hearing in Islamabad, and then suggested that they might all be more comfortable returning to Rawalpindi in his car -- a silver Mitsubishi station wagon -- rather than they way they had come -- in a taxi.

For some reason the standard prisoner-handling practices were not followed and Pakistan's world-famous suspect was transported just like an ordinary prisoner -- despite an urgent fax sent earlier in the week requesting extra security for the trip.

And so, according to Pakistani officials, the four -- alleged Liquid Bomber Rashid Rauf, his uncle Muhammad Rafiq, and Constables Tufail and Wazirzada -- took Rashid Rauf back to Rawalpindi in his uncle's van. One report even says that the uncle drove.

They stopped at McDonald's in Rawalpindi, and uncle Rafiq bought them all lunch. The constables removed Rashid Rauf's handcuffs so he could eat, according to Pak Tribune.

Then they proceeded in the direction of Adiala jail, where Rashid Rauf had been held pending possible extradition to the UK in connection with the 2002 murder of his uncle in Birmingham.

At about 3:00, when they had almost reached the jail, they passed a mosque, where Rashid Rauf reportedly asked for permission to go inside and pray. Astonishingly, both the suspect and his uncle were allowed to go into the mosque, while the two policemen -- both referred to as "head constables" by Pak Tribune -- waited for them in the van.

After waiting for 20 minutes, Head Constable Tufail entered the mosque to find that both Rashid Rauf and his uncle had slipped out the back door.

Previous accounts had suggested that Rashid Rauf had somehow slipped out of his handcuffs and overpowered the policemen who were escorting him. Conspiracy theorists will likely find the current revised story even less plausible. On such gaps and contradictions are the best conspiracy theories built.

In the article with the most detailed timeline of the day, Pak Tribune says the head constables looked for their escaped prisoner for the next two and a half hours, finally reporting him missing at 6:00 -- three hours after they had last seen him.

What are Laura King and Sebastian Rotella trying to tell us? How about this?
The superintendent of the jail where Rauf was being held told AFP that the police escorts may have unlocked his handcuffs when he went to pray.

"It is said that he asked permission to offer prayers and the two police officials who were escorting him allowed this," said Mohsin Rafiq, superintendent of Adiala jail.

"It seems his handcuffs would have been removed to let him say his prayers," Rafiq said. "It is sheer police negligence."
Sheer? To me, it doesn't look like negligence at all.

As Pak Tribune reports:
Investigative agencies have found a clue to the high-profile escape of Rashid Rauf, linking Tufail, one of the two head constables escorting Rashid Rauf to court, and his uncle Muhammad Rafiq, reliable sources told media on Monday.

Call records of Head Constable Tufail showed that he was in touch with Rafiq, sources disclosed, adding they had contacted each other before Rashid Rauf fled from police custody.
How would Muhammad Rafiq know that Tufail would be escorting Rashid Rauf to Adiala jail? Or was that what the phone calls were about?

How much did it cost Uncle Rafiq to get Rashid Rauf into that mosque? More than a Big Mac, I'd guess.

Or at least that's the story released to the public.

Rashid Rauf's attorney, Hashmat Habib, rejects the entire story, saying that Rashid Rauf's Uncle Rafiq couldn't have been in Rawalpindi or Islamabad on Saturday, because he was in Kashmir that day.

Habib suggests Rashid Rauf has been disappeared by the government.

Dawn : Rashid Rauf’s escape: two policemen detained
“In my opinion it is not escape, but a case of mysterious disappearance,” [Hashmat Habib] said. He said Rauf used to be brought from the Adiala jail for hearing in different courts under tight security and sometimes even armoured personnel carriers had been used for his transportation.
As the Belfast Telegraph reported:
Habib claimed that his client's "mysterious disappearance" may be due to the Pakistani authorities' unwillingness to extradite Rauf for fear of possible links emerging between him and the country's intelligence service. He said: "He was under tight security; how it was possible that he escaped like that? Police took my client from Adiala jail on Saturday afternoon for a court appearance in Islamabad and now they say he has escaped. It comes at a time when the British government is trying to extradite him. And it all looks very suspicious to me."
If I had to put down money, I'd say Rashid Rauf is already in Afghanistan and we will never see hide nor hair of him again.

Let's see how long it takes before I'm proven wrong.


twenty-eighth in a series