WASHINGTON DC, May 22, 2005 | ISSN: 1684-2057 | www.satribune.com

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AKU in a Soup After Student is Arrested for Murder

By M A Siddiqui

KARACHI, May 22: Karachi police finally arrested an Aga Khan University student on Saturday on murder charges after a court canceled his bail in what has become the biggest cover-up scandal by any educational institution in Pakistan, involving death of a 3rd year student in September last year and expulsion of 10 others earlier this month.

Zeeshan, son of a Rawalpindi retired Army Colonel, from whose hostel room the body of 22-year old Assad Aftab, his class mate, was recovered, is the main suspect while two of his other fellow students were allowed by the Sessions Court to stay on bail in the case.

The Aga Khan University (AKU) was accused by Assad’s family and a Doctors Group in Washington DC, of taking sides with the accused students and covering up the murder by declaring it as death by an overdose of heroin.

But when the case was highlighted by the Pakistani media, shortly after South Asia Tribune ran a detailed investigative story, the AKU took quick damage control action and nine students were expelled from the University on charges of doing drugs on the campus.

In what was the biggest such mass action against students on any campus in Pakistan, the AKU conceded that its campus had a major drug problem but it failed to answer questions about Assad Aftab’s murder and why AKU continued to portray it as a drug abuse death instead of a plain murder for some other reason, possibly over involvement with a female class fellow.

In not doing so, AKU allowed the three main accused in the death case, Zeeshan, Kashif and Qazi Assad, to continue their studies normally while it had been established that one of these accused had even stolen and sold the mobile phone of the deceased student shortly after the murder.

The AKU reluctance to treat the case as a murder and to take disciplinary action against the accused at the University level, while police investigations continued at a different level, angered the family of Assad Aftab so much that they appealed to a group of doctors in US to raise their case before the world public opinion.

The doctors took up it and when details were released to the media, AKU suddenly jumped into action and claimed that they were helping the police investigation in every way possible. But in fact the Associate Dean for Students Affairs, Dr Arif Zaidi had been dragging his feet and trying to cover up the murder as a simple case of drug use.

When contacted he even tried to mislead the South Asia Tribune about details of the case and gave a skewed AKU version of the story. His story did not corroborate with the police investigations and left many questions unanswered.

During the 8-month period of delaying tactics, AKU also illegally sent samples taken from the body of the dead student to a laboratory in London, without permission from the Court or the Police. A report received from London tried to raise doubts about the official autopsy report over the cause of the death.

During this period the family of now arrested student Zeeshan tried to bribe a police investigating officer and Rs 1 million were recovered by another police party which got hint of the attempted bribe.

A Medical Board set up on the demand of one of the three accused students gave more credence to the illegally obtained Lab Test Report from London which hinted that the dead student may have taken opiates while no such sign of opiates was found in the first autopsy report on the day of the death.

AKU Executives vehemently denied that the University was in any way trying to influence the murder investigation or trying to protect the accused. “This matter has been receiving appropriate and serious attention from Aga Khan University. Let me confirm that everyone at the University has taken the death of Assad Aftab and the evidence of substance abuse by some students on campus with the utmost seriousness. May I also assure you that every assistance that was requested by all relevant authorities was provided by our University as and when it was required,” AKU President Shamsh Kassim-Lakha (Top,Left) told the South Asia Tribune in an E-Mailed response to the Editor.

“I can also confirm that letters containing the University’s disciplinary decisions have been issued against the students who had committed offences under the Student Code of Conduct. Penalties that have been imposed include expulsion from the University,” Mr Lakha said in his letter.

Mr Lakha said: “I have learned yesterday that the police has submitted the charge of accusation of murder before the Sessions Court Karachi East. The trial has commenced against the accused persons. Since the trial has commenced, and the matter is subjudiced before a Court of law, it would now amount to contempt of Court to make any comments or respond to your questions … I hope that you will understand my inability to respond in detail to your questions.”

On Saturday, May 21, the Sessions Court in Karachi canceled the bail of Zeeshan and police immediately arrested him for the murder of Assad Aftab.

During the upcoming investigations and trial of Zeeshan, the role of AKU will come into focus as it has been established that AKU did actually try to convert a murder case into a drug abuse case, although as an institution it should have allowed the police and the law enforcing authorities to do their job without trying to influence the proceedings.

The group of Doctors in Washington is also thinking of filing a law suit against AKU because it kept the family of the murdered student in agony for eight long months by not taking action against the accused students who have now been found to be involved in the murder of their colleague.

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