Perfect case for suo motu to put an end to fake encounters
By Ansar Abbasi
ISLAMABAD: Brutal killings of innocent people including a 13-year-old girl and her parents by the Punjab Counter Terrorism Department is a fit case for suo motu for the newly appointed Chief Justice of Pakistan Asif Saeed Khan Khosa as it shows that extra-judicial killing continues to be the order of the day.
For PTI Punjab ministers, who blatantly tried to sell the narrative of the killers belonging to CTD, it was a case of collateral damage. In reality, it was a case of extra-judicial killing and fake police encounter occurred during the tenure of PTI government.
These fake encounters have been there before but after last year’s Naqeebullah Mehsud’s cold-blooded murder by police under the command of the then SP Rao Anwar it was expected from the authorities to stop this practice. Unfortunately, it has not happened and the latest Sahiwal barbarism shows the callousness of the authorities for whom the human life has no value.
This incident needs to be focused not only to punish those who had executed or ordered this extra-judicial killing but to put a full stop to fake encounters once for all. This can only be done by the Supreme Court.
Otherwise, if we have missed the opportunity to correct this wrong of our state after Naqeebullah’s case, the Sahiwal brutality will too become history and the menace of extra-judicial killing through fake encounters will continue unabated.
It’s not possible for the media and ordinary witnesses to expose each and every case of extra-judicial killing. No one has any idea how many innocents have been killed in these fake encounters and given the title of “terrorists” before, this is sure this practice will continue unless the state takes the conscious decision to stop it.
The Punjab government has constituted a JIT which is expected to throw the entire blame on those who pulled the trigger. The problem is it’s not a rare incident but a practice that has been followed here since long to kill those categorised as “Black” by the authorities.
In their off the record discussions, police and security officials agree that fake encounters is a usual practice here and its prime purpose is to get rid of those terrorists and criminals who are hard to be prosecuted and executed by following normal course of law. But the Naqeebullah case and Sahiwal killings are prominent examples of how even the innocents, who has no criminal history of any type, are killed extra-judicially.
Prime Minister Imran Khan, in his tweet while appreciating the “great job” done by the CTD in its fight against terrorism, said that everyone must be accountable before the law. He assured that as soon as the JIT report comes, swift action will be taken.
In another tweet, the prime minister said that after his return from Qatar not only the guilty will be given exemplary punishment but he will review the entire structure of Punjab police and start process of reforming it.
After five months of his tenure which saw repeated incidents of further politicisation of police and bureaucracy, Prime Minister Imran Khan now commits yet again to start the process of reforming the police. He perhaps needs to realise that the issue of extra-judicial killing and fake encounters is far serious and complicated than the case of police’s reformation and depoliticisation.
While the PM’s showed his sadness on Sahiwal incident, his party’s government in Punjab kept on selling even several hours after the killing story of CTD. In a press conference the Punjab Law Minister Raja Basharat, accompanied by four of his cabinet colleagues, insisted that the first fire was shot by driver Zeeshan, whereas eight grenades, two suicide jackets and weapons were also recovered from him.
The law minister added that Zeeshan’s accomplices had also been gunned down Saturday night in Gujranwala. The media was also told that Zeeshan’s brother had also been recruited in Dolphin Force recently. Raja Basharat said the Sahiwal operation was an intelligence-based operation, conducted by the law enforcement authorities on reliable secret information.
He added that there were strong shreds of pieces of evidence indicating that deceased Zeeshan hosted terrorists at his house. “Zeeshan was affiliated with Daesh. We got the confirmation on Jan 18 that he works with the terror organisation,” he said, “Had we not stopped the terrorists, there could have been big devastation.”
While parroting what he was told by the CTD and those who had fed the CTD with “reliable secret information”, the law minister left many questions unanswered. For example, if Zeeshan had links with terrorists, whether he was ever arrested and questioned by the authorities. Why there was not a single witness to endorse CTD or government’s story that it was Zeeshan who had first fired at the CTD force. If the CTD was really fed with “reliable secret information” how such an information can be trusted as the CTD initially announced that it had killed “four terrorists” and later changed its stories repeatedly. Why no one saw the CTD force recovering the suicide jacket and other ammunition as claimed to have been recovered both by the Punjab ministers and the CTD.
In this situation, the JIT constituted by the government is least expected to answer these questions. It appears from the Punjab ministers’ press conference that the effort is to suppressing the truth than revealing it entirely.