LAHORE - Police on Monday confirmed arrest of two suspects in the murder case of a 32-year-old Sindhi artist, who was killed in Lahore’s Sanda neighbourhood last month.

The suspects, identified by police as Muhammad Waqas and Hassan Ali, are sons of the house-owner where the deceased was residing on rent.

Qutab Ali Rind, a graduate from the National College of Arts, was killed on July 17, as he clashed with the suspects over nonpayment of the house rent.

Police investigators and relatives of the deceased on Monday straightforwardly rejected the social media campaign alleging that Qutab Ali Rind was murdered over blasphemy. Several social media users last week created a controversy over the motives behind the murder of Qutab, who was ready to launch his latest painting exhibition at a local art gallery. The deceased had graduated from the NCA in 2015.  Baig, the complainant, rejected the social media reports that his nephew Qutab Ali was murdered allegedly for committing blasphemy.

Baig, while talking to The Nation by phone from his hometown Jacobabad, Sindh, on Monday afternoon said that three men including two sons of the house owner attacked Qutab Ali during an argument over nonpayment of house rent.

“This is totally wrong and baseless,” he said while referring to media reports in which he was quoted as saying that the motives behind the murder of his nephew could be blasphemy. “I never said that he was killed over blasphemy,” Baig said. “This is incorrect. He was a humble person and had great respect for the religion.”

Gul Baig however complained that the police were not cooperating with them. “The suspects are arrested but not remanded into police custody yet. The arrest is not mentioned in the police record despite the lapse of 20 days,” he said.

Baig also says he believes the killing of his nephew was planned and he was murdered on the behest of someone. “We must be provided justice and the culprits should be brought to justice,” he added.

Earlier, the Sanda police registered a murder case (FIR 741/18) under section (302/34 of the PPC) against Waqas and Hassan on the complaint of Baig, uncle of the deceased.

Reportedly, the attackers clashed with the deceased and pushed him from the second floor of the three-storey building. As a result, the victim sustained serious head injuries. He was rushed to hospital where he was pronounced as brought dead.

The complainant also told the police that Qutab Ali, father of a six-year-old boy, was living on the second floor of the three-Marla house on rent. On the day of incident, he was called outside by sons of the house owner who demanded monthly rent.

“My nephew told them (the suspects) that he had already paid the rent but they said you are lying. They started beating him and then they pushed him from the rooftop,” Baig recalled. Qutab died instantly due to excessive bleeding, he said.

 Police official Syed Ali said both the suspects were arrested by police during the initial investigation. “Initially, the locals thought that it was an accidental death. But the police launched homicide investigation after registering a murder case against both sons of the house owner,” SP Iqbal Town police division Syed Ali said. 

He also rejected the media reports that the apparent motives behind the murder could be blasphemy. “This is not true,” he said while referring to social media reports. “Even relatives of the deceased have never stated this before. We have been interrogating the suspects for the last couple of weeks. And they also did not say that they killed the man over any blasphemy issue,” he said.

The suspects were handed over to the homicide investigation cell for further interrogation.