Crime File

Javed Iqbal Mughal-I Children in the Acid Drum

Had he not confessed and surrendered, he could have carried on undetected for any length of time, for the police had absolutely no clue about the children disappearing from the streets, getting killed and dissolved in acid. HEMRAJ SINGH tells the story that came to light with the surrender of Javed Iqbal, and many aspects of which remain unclear to date. 

In Lahore, Pakistan, the police received a letter in December 1999, the contents of which they could not bring themselves to readily trust. The letter was from one Javed Iqbal by which the sender had disclosed that he had killed a large number of boys between the age of six (6) and sixteen (16). The letter contained not only a cold reference to the sexual abuse Iqbal put the children through but also the details of how he dismembered their bodies and dispensed with them by dissolving them in hydrochloric acid, after which he dumped the remains in a local river. The most shocking aspect of the crime was that the man could have continued killing indefinitely, had he not written to the police himself, and confessed to having killed a total of 100 boys.

The police raided the house in which Iqbal had killed the children and had disposed of their bodies. They found walls and floor covered in bloodstains. They also found a chain that Iqbal had claimed to use to strangle his victims to death. The police also found several photographs of Iqbal’s victims in plastics, and all of these items had been neatly labeled to assist the investigators.

Partly dissolved human remains were also found in two vat of hydrochloric acid that had been apparently left behind by Javed Iqbal himself so that the police did not face any difficulty to get hold of the requisite evidence against the killer. If there was any doubt about the reason why the killer had left incriminating evidence behind, it was dispensed by a note addressed to the police that stated, “The bodies in the house have deliberately not been disposed of so that authorities will find them.” There is no doubt that Iqbal was arrested only because he wanted to be apprehended, for nobody had missed the children disappearing from the streets of Lahore, and the police clearly had no inkling as to what was happening to them.
The letter that Iqbal sent to the police said that after his confession he intended to drown himself to death in the River Ravi, and the police believed it. But after pulling the nets through the river multiple times, they realized that the suicide part of the letter might not be quite as truthful as the rest of it. So, they launched the largest manhunt ever undertaken in Pakistan. Four teenage boys, who had been Iqbal’s accomplices and had shared his three-bedroom flat, were quickly arrested in Sohawa. One of the four arrested committed suicide by jumping out of the window.

However, the manhunt for Iqbal did not really succeed, but a month later, on December 30, 1999, he courted arrest at the office of Jang, a newspaper. The man who had disclosed his desire to commit suicide in his letter to the police explained the surrendering at the office of a newspaper by citing fear for his life from the police.

Despite the fact that the police found recorded in his diary the detailed descriptions of the way he carried out the murders of the children, and despite all labels being in his own handwriting across the house, he claimed innocence before the court and claimed that the entire thing was a hoax aimed at bringing to light the plight of the homeless, runaway children. He also claimed that his statement recorded by the police was made in duress.

Iqbal resided and killed in the populous area in the city of Lahore, Pakistan. It is surprising that his neighbours did not wonder as to who were the children that came to Iqbal’s house and then disappeared without a trace. The children were sexually abused and killed in a house next door and none of the neighbours heard or saw anything that could raise suspicion. Not only were the young boys abused, tortured and killed, but their remains were also dissolved in acid, and yet the stench of the burning human flesh did not find a suspicious nose. The police vigil in the area, too, did not help the helpless kids. One of the reasons why the neighbours did not complain could be that Javed Iqbal pretended to be a police officer, and the fear of police retribution could have prevented the neighbours from reporting their suspicions to the authorities, if they ever did suspect anything at all.
Born on October 8, 1956, as the sixth child of Mohammad Ali Mughal, Javed Iqbal did his matriculation from Islamia High School and started his own steel recasting business in 1978 while he was still studying at the Islamia College, Lahore. Javed’s father, Mohammad Ali Mughal, was a well off trader in Lahore, and Javed was well provided for as a child and was a pampered child, according to a report published in the Pakistani newspaper Dawn (Lahore: The story of a pampered boy, Dawn, October 11, 2011). Javed lived with his parents and his siblings in a villa Shadbagh purchased by his father. Even during his teens, Javed Iqbal had a 200 cc motorbike, which had been part of the charm that he worked on the children to bring them in his fold only to exploit them later. But according to the story in Dawn, the most effective method that Iqbal used was pen-friendship through the pen-friend columns in the magazines. He got in touch with a number of boys by corresponding with them and got their pictures, after which he picked the ‘attractive’ ones from among them and started developing a stronger friendship with them by sending them money and expensive gifts.

When Javed’s family got to know of his misdeeds, they tried to stop him, but failed. Javed did not allow his family to interfere with his lifestyle, and did not change his ways. In 1990, when a man complained with the police about Javed sodomizing his son, and the police failed to get to Javed, the policemen arrested two of his brothers and his father and kept them in custody for seven days. Javed did not turn up. But when they picked up one of Javed’s companion boys, Javed appeared before the police and yelled at his family for allowing the police to arrest the boy. Javed surrendered to the police and made himself available for questioning to secure the release of the boy.

It is not clear how the police could detain Javed’s family members without charging them with any crime for seven days. The news story does not reveal whether the police produced Javed’s father and brothers before the magistrate and obtained police remand from the court although it seems unlikely that the police followed the legal procedure in the case.

The family tried to arrange Javed’s marriage, but he did not yield to the efforts for years. Finally, he announced that he wanted to get married to the elder sister of one of his companion boys. The purpose behind the marriage was not the marriage itself. Javed did not want the brother of the girl to desert him. Founded upon such an objective, the marriage was destined to fail, which it did within few months. Javed got married and divorced in 1983. Javed, for the very same purpose, got his younger sister married to one of his companion boys, Muhammaed Iqbal. Apparently, his sister’s marriage did not fall apart.

Javed Iqbal was once arrested, prosecuted and convicted of sodomy and had to undergo an imprisonment for six months, but that did nothing to change his tendencies.

Javed had just two things to do – manage his business and lure young boys. For the purpose of getting his hands at boys, he once opened a video games shop and undercharged the boys. In some cases when he found a boy sufficiently attractive, he would also let him play for free. Another ploy he used was to drop a 100 rupee bill on the floor and wait for a boy to pick it up. The boy who would eventually pick it up would be accused of stealing the money, and taken into a separate room for punishment, where Javed would sodomize him, after which the money would be given back to the boy in some cases as a “gesture of goodwill”. Eventually, people got wind of what was happening to the boys in Javed’s video game shop, and they stopped their kids from going there. Javed closed the shop and opened an aquarium in its place for the same purpose. When that ran out of steam, he opened a gym. All to attract boys.

He did not stop at that because boys stopped coming to the gym eventually. He opened an air-conditioned school called Sunny Side School, but that failed to get any admissions because nobody wanted to send their little children to a school run by Javed Iqbal. So, Iqbal shut the school and threw open a fair-price grocery store, where the items were sold at lower prices. The shutters came down on that too within a few weeks.

Javed also put some money into a monthly magazine called Anti-corruption Crime, which published stories about the good work done by the police officers. He, by way of interviewing several high ranking police officers including SSPs and DIGs, developed good rapport with the police and other government departments.

When his father died in 1993, he left a substantial portion of his estate to Javed. Javed’s share was worth some Rs. 3.5 million. In 1995, Javed got a large house built for himself in Rana Town, Shahdara, complete with a pond and a swimming pool. Javed moved around in a Pajero with some half a dozen boys with him most of the time. One of his friends is also reported to have said that Javed once had four expensive vehicles – a Lancer, a Pajero, a Suzuki FX and a Toyota.

Eventually, Javed sold his Rana Town house and moved into a new house in Fatehgarh, Ghaziabad, where he once again opened a video games parlour. In September 1998, one of his employees beat Iqbal and another of his employees, and fled with Rs. 8,000. Javed was left with severe injuries to the head and remained unconscious for 22 days in a Lahore hospital. The police registered a case of robbery in the case initially, but, according to the abovementioned report in Dawn (Dawn, October 11, 2011), “on the complaint of Arbab’s family, amended the FIR and charged Iqbal with sodomy”. Javed was formally arrested and was also released while he was in the hospital. A court granted him bail.

It is unclear how the FIR of robbery and assault was ‘amended’ to charge Iqbal with sodomy when the injuries sustained by Javed were clearly life-threatening. Even if Iqbal was charged with the offence of sodomy, it had to be part of a separate FIR as it was a distinct crime from the offence of robbery and assault perpetrated against Javed. How could the FIR of robbery and assault be ‘amended’ to include a separate and distinct cause of action, or, worse, to replace the charge of robbery and assault with that of sodomy and making the victim the accused in the case? To further simplify, just because the offence of sodomy was committed, it does not mean that the offences of robbery and assault were not committed; and simply because Javed was guilty of a crime, it does not follow that he was not a victim of another crime. However, the news report does not clarify what happened to the employee who assaulted Javed, or whether or not he was apprehended and prosecuted.

It is not in doubt that Javed started killing only after the incident, and the Dawn report does quote Javed as having told the police, “I did it to avenge an attempt on my life by my boys, the death of my mother and injustice in society.” So, the assault in September 1998 that left Javed half-dead was life-changing event for him. The attack left him badly injured and since none of his family members were willing to spend on him, Javed’s assets, including his car and shop, were sold to meet the medical expenses. When Javed got better, he was shocked to know that much of his property had been sold. Thus, it is no exaggeration to say that the attack left Javed completely devastated, both personally and financially, and perhaps emotionally as well. Javed’s killing spree started in 1999, and stopped only when he decided to stop killing.

The trial commenced before Additional Sessions Judge, Bakhsh Ranjha, in February 2000 with Javed Iqbal Mughal pleading not guilty to the charges of abducting, sodomizing, killing and dissolving the bodies of 100 children in acid. A charge-sheet running into 100 pages was handed over to Iqbal’s counsel.

…To be continued

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