KARACHI - An anti-terrorism court (ATC) on Monday rejected a report by the investigating officer of police which had acquitted the former federal minister of charges of abetting terrorists. The court ordered that the suspect be presented before ATC-II for further proceedings.

The former petroleum minister – a close aide of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Co-Chairperson Asif Ali Zardari – was arrested on August 26 over allegations of corruption and facilitating terrorists at his private hospital in Karachi.

The PPP leader was initially held by Rangers for 90 days during which he claimed he was mistreated and forced to give statements under duress, which includes admission that wanted criminals were given treatment on his orders at his hospital.

Last week, the Sindh police gave a clean chit to the former minister after expiration of his 14-day physical remand in police custody.

But, announcing his verdict today, the ATC’s administrative judge Justice Naimatullah Phulpoto rejected the report by Investigating Officer DSP Altaf Hussain which argued that there was not enough evidence to keep the former minister in custody for charges of abetting terrorists.

“We were unable to find evidence (against Asim) during the investigation of the case,” the investigating officer told the court today.

Rangers counsel Habib Ahmed informed the court that the Sindh government had changed the investigation officer (IO) and the special public prosecutor in the case.

After hearing the report and arguments from both sides, the judge said that the IO could not satisfy the court to quash the terrorism charges against Dr Asim, and said that he should be taken into custody again.

Justice Phulpoto ordered the police to re-arrest Dr Asim and produce him in the ATC on Tuesday to proceed with the trial.

Dr Asim Hussain, who was in NAB custody after he was released by police, has now been handed over to police again.

Separately, Sindh High Court (SHC) heard pleas filed by Dr Asim’s mother against the Rangers and that of Rangers against the Sindh government. Rangers and the Sindh government have come face to face in the terror case against the former minister.

A two-member bench heard plea of Pakistan Rangers officer Inayatullah Durrani. The plea stated that the government is constantly interfering in the case which is hindering the progress. The Rangers demanded the court to bar the government from placing hindrances in Rangers way.

The SHC adjourned the hearing until Tuesday and ordered to present Justice Ahmed Ali Sheikh’s verdict’s copy.

On the other hand, the court postponed hearing of plea filed by Dr Asim’s mother owing to absence of her counsel. However, Dr Asim’s mother alleged that paramilitary force was pressing police investigation officer which must be stopped.

Meanwhile, locals gathered outside the court and raised slogans in favour of the Rangers and targeted operation. Rangers’ supporters held banners with anti-Dr Asim scripts written on them.

In a statement to the court, Dr Asim Hussain said: “My life is under threat. I have been humiliated by the press, by electronic media. And I am the son of those who played a vital role in the creation of Pakistan.” He alleged he was facing ‘personal vendetta’ and all evidence against him was fabricated.

The arrest of Dr Hussain, chairman of the Sindh Higher Education Commission, came on Aug 26 and was described as the first major action against PPP leaders during the ongoing Karachi operation.