April 21: The CBI is considering invoking the anti-terror law against Asgar Ali and his four associates for their alleged involvement in the murder of former Gujarat home minister Haren Pandya.
The five accused were remanded in CBI custody for 10 days by a court in Ahmedabad.
The CBI’s move comes in the backdrop of the Gujarat government announcing that it will slap such charges against those arrested on April 4 in connection with the case.
Ahmedabad police had arrested five alleged ISI agents — Mohammed Pervez Abdul Kayum Sheikh, Mohammed Yunus Abdulrahim Sareshwala, Mohammed Riyaz alias Goru Abdul Wahib Sareshwala, Rehan Abdul Mujib Punthawala and Munawar Beigh alias Captain Yakub Miyan Mirza — for their involvement in Pandya’s murder last month. Though they are in the custody of local police, the CBI officials said they would take them into custody when required.
The bureau is also going through a mobile phone and other documents recovered from Ali, who is accused of pulling the trigger on Pandya. Information got from the phone is expected to give the sleuths details of calls made or received by Ali before and after Pandya’s murder.
Sources said Ali had tried to destroy the Sim card of his mobile phone.
The agency, however, has not been able to recover the .32 revolver used by Ali to assassinate Pandya. What is baffling the CBI is that the state government failed to provide cover to the BJP leader despite threats to his life. That Pandya was moving openly in his Maruti 800 had made the killers’ job easy, sources said.
CBI director P.C. Sharma today asserted that the accused had undergone training in Pakistan, but failed to specify the motive or whether the conspiracy for the attack was hatched at the behest of Islamabad.
He did not give a direct reply when asked about doubts expressed by Pandya’s father about the CBI’s version, merely saying “we are fully confident” of having arrested the killer, who was remanded in custody today.
Ali and his associates — Abdul Bakr, Abdul Rauf, Mohammed Iftekar and Mohammed Shafi — were produced at the chief metropolitan magistrate’s court amid tight security.
CBI counsel S.N. Parmar pleaded that the accused be remanded for 10 days to enable the agency to unearth the “deep-rooted” conspiracy behind Pandya’s murder, identification of others involved in the crime and arrest the absconding accused.
The weapon used to kill the BJP leader is with one of the absconding accused, Parmar said. The bureau is also yet to recover three cell phones used by them in connection with the crime, he added.
The five arrested by the CBI were caught in Hyderabad on April 17 and 18 by the bureau’s special investigating team and Andhra Pradesh police. Ali and his accomplices were rounded up — on the basis of information provided by the five “ISI agents” arrested by Ahmedabad police — as they were planning to flee to Pakistan.
The accused were taken to an undisclosed destination under heavy security, immediately on their arrival at Sardar Patel Airport in Ahmedabad from New Delhi this morning. The five will be later taken to the spot outside Law Garden where Pandya was gunned down and the events will be reconstructed with witnesses being called in for identification.
No one appeared in court today on behalf of the indicted men, who remained silent when asked if they had anything to say on the remand sought by the CBI.