August 29th, 2020

                                         By Haider Kaleem


Lawyer Irshad Nasreen, who had at one time been given the title of ‘Mujahid-e-Bar’, makes her way back to the court building in Depalpur almost two weeks after she claims that she was ‘kidnapped’ from the premises. It was on the morning of August 15, she specifies, as she records a six-page long statement before the police.

A video went viral recently where Nasreen appearing to be crying out for help. She was found at Mailsi, on the outskirts of Depalpur. Her appearance seemed as if she was ‘shell-shocked’, too stunned to even speak properly, but she managed to identify herself as a lawyer from Depalpur, then dramatically asked for a dupatta to cover her head.

A crowd gathered and a local called the police helpline and the SHO took her to Mailsi city police station where she gave her initial statement.

Needless to say, the video caused immense public outrage. Authorities have since moved swiftly to investigate her claims of torture and kidnapping.

But those she named have instead accused her of playing a victim to gain public sympathy. Even more so, Nasreen’s decision of accusing a lawyer with whom she shared a law chamber before, and claims that he is her husband, has made the others in the Depalpur Bar Association hesitant to believe her.

Nasreen’s statement reads that she was ‘bound and gagged by her captors who threw her off in Mailsi, a city some 200 kilometers away from her hometown’.

Depalpur police have recorded her detailed statement under Section 161. In the charge-sheet, she accuses Nazar Farid, Owais Paracha, Advocate Mian Akmal Wattoo, and Shah Nawaz of her kidnapping. It says that she was drugged before being taken to an unidentified location, where she was gang-raped, while later her captors also tried to kill her by releasing a poisonous snake on her. Nasreen claims that the accused are influential people, and has appealed to the Inspector General of Punjab Police to personally supervise the investigation.

Afterward, Nasreen was taken to Depalpur Tehsil Headquarters Hospital for a medical examination.

On August 22, Nasreen’s son Mohammad Moeez acting as complainant went to the Depalpur city police station and filed an FIR about her alleged kidnapping. He claims that she was abducted at gunpoint while going to use a washroom, after leaving her personal belongings in Chamber No. 49 which incidentally belonged to Advocate Mian Aslam Shad, who is her current lawyer.

Meanwhile, the Depalpur Bar President Fakhr Hayat Wattoo has called for a transparent investigation and joint secretary of the Bar, Azadar Hussain Jaffrey, expresses the hope of a fair and impartial police investigation.

One of the accused, Mian Akmal Wattoo, who Irshad Nasreen claims is her husband, says that he has been falsely implicated in the case. He completely denies being her husband and says that this accusation has caused great pain and hurt to his family and children.

“I am an innocent man and have the full support of my family in this regard,” he says. “I have not even applied for pre-arrest bail as I am cooperating in the investigation of the case. However, I have been nominated as a suspect because I refused Nasreen to become a party to an earlier accusation. She was also having some work-based issues with my clerk, who has also been named as an accused.”

Former Secretary Depalpur Bar Association, Adnan Wattoo feels that the lawyers’ community should have been more careful concerning her history of accusations.

“That’s why we took a whole week to have the FIR filed,” he said. “But the viral video dispelled all doubts.”

Apparently Mian Akmal became angry with Irshad Nasreen after she produced a fake Nadra certificate showing her to be his wife. “Mian Akmal never said Nasreen was his wife before any of the members,” said Adnan.

Adnan Wattoo says that Nasreen had also been ‘kidnapped earlier’ back in October 2019, and even then she had nominated a bar member as accused. Back then the lawyers had supported her and took a stand in her support and ensured that the accused did not get bail. However, the accused was still granted bail by the court after the police investigation.

City Depalpur Police Station SHO Qalab-e-Sajjad feels reluctant talking to the media, saying it is inappropriate with the investigation going on. However, he dispels any talk of pressure.

Ironically even though the case is sensitive and involves a woman and her accusation of sexual assault and kidnapping, not even one woman lawyer is present on the six-member inquiry committee formed by the Punjab Bar Council.

The members include Depalpur Bar President, Fakhr Hayat Wattoo, Secretary Sheikh Zia-ur-Rehman, former Bar President Syed Altaf Hussain Bukhari, former Punjab Bar members Chaudhry Muhammad Riaz, Sharif Zafar Joya, and Mian Aslam Shad Joya, who is acting as counsel for Irshad Nasreen.

Final medico-legal reports are yet to come, however, samples have been collected. Nasreen has also been referred for a psychological examination.