ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (Pims) on Monday confirmed that two protesters who lost their lives during the pitched battles on Constitution Avenue on Saturday, had been killed by “high-velocity metal projectiles”.

While the hospital administration, in a statement issued on Monday, stopped short of calling these objects ‘bullets’, but sources in the hospital revealed that the four-member medical board that performed autopsies on the two bodies had confirmed that both men had been shot with live ammunition.

A bullet, possibly from a small arm such as a handgun, was recovered from the skull of Rafiullah, while Gulfam Adil – who was shot in his abdomen – had the entry/exit wounds characteristic of a gunshot wound.

“The deaths were caused by high velocity metal projectiles. Some of the objects were de-shaped and have been sent to ballistic experts in the Sihala police station for analysis,” Pims administrator Dr Altaf Hussain said.

Autopsy confirms protesters were killed by small-arms fire

Sources say that similar injuries sustained by others who are still undergoing treatment at Pims have also been attributed to the same kind of small arms fire that is said to have been the cause of death of the two deceased men.

On Monday, injured Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) supporter and former policeman Mohammad Yousuf, who had also sustained multiple rubber bullet injuries, had a similar ‘object’ removed from his knee.

Dr Hussain also confirmed that following a two-hour operation, doctors removed similar objects from the left thigh of another victim, Usman Gulfam. The object entered Gulfam’s left leg and shattered his thigh bone.

A senior medical official at Pims explained that a high-velocity object, such as a bullet, is quite hot when fired and can deform after coming into contact with another solid object, such as human bones.

In his opinion, anti-riot weapons such as low velocity rubber bullets and teargas shells were unlikely to cause entry/exit wounds consistent with the injuries sustained by several individuals currently being treated at the hospital.

Former Pims Medico-Legal Officer Dr Waseem Khawaja told Dawn rubber bullets could – in very rare cases – penetrate the human body but only if fired from a very close range. Even in such cases, he said, it will never present with an exit wound.

While the bullet recovered from the skull of the deceased Rafiullah has been forwarded for forensic analysis, those involved with the autopsy told Dawn that it appeared to be a bullet from a 30-bore handgun. However, they said it was premature to say anything before the object had been properly analysed.

Islamabad Deputy Commissioner Mujahid Sherdil confirmed that police did not use live ammunition, saying that: “Though police fired rubber bullets on protesters, they did not have authorisation from the SSP or myself.”

By Monday afternoon, over 280 protesters had been brought to Pims for treatment. As many as 76 of the injured were admitted for treatment and later discharged. However, 29 victims are still in the hospital and 11 are said to require surgery to repair broken limbs.

Published in Dawn, September 2nd , 2014