KARACHI: Already under serious criticism for dubious encounters, the Karachi police suffered another blow on Tuesday when a fresh investigation into an alleged shootout in January on Sharea Faisal declared the killing of an innocent young man a fake encounter.

It all began with the killing of a young man, Maqsood, who was travelling in a rickshaw and came in ‘crossfire’ between bandits and police on Sharea Faisal. The police came up with a claim that the deceased was an accomplice of the held bandits. However, they withdrew that version after Maqsood’s family reached the hospital and shared the true story with the media.

It transpired that he was travelling with his rickshaw driver friend, Abdul Rauf, when the firing started and he had nothing to do with the bandits and the encounter.

New findings reveal Maqsood was killed by police firing as bandits were unarmed

Although the police authorities declared him innocent, they came up with another claim that the victim was actually killed by the held bandits who attacked the police but the rickshaw was hit in the crossfire.

This version of the police also turned out to be a bundle of lies when the consistent effort of Maqsood’s family, who were supported by civil society, led to a fresh investigation into the incident.

Finally, after more than a month-long process the truth came out putting a question mark on the city police force, which appears to have become more aggressive in engaging fleeing suspects in ‘encounters’.

“So far, it appears to be a point-blank murder by the men in uniform [policemen],” said an official while sharing the findings of the fresh probe. “The investigation was transferred to DIG West Amir Farooqi by the Sindh IG on a new FIR registered on the complaint of Maqsood’s father which alleged that the police party was involved in his murder and that the claim that he was killed by dacoit is not correct.”

Unarmed bandits

During the course of the fresh probe, he said, the investigators found several discrepancies in the statements of policemen who took part in the encounter. The investigation team also recorded statements of the rickshaw driver Abdul Rauf, who also suffered a bullet wound, passenger Murtaza and held bandit Ali Eidain in jail.

“Rauf and Murtaza were not telling the truth out of fear,” said the official. “Most probably they were threatened by the same policemen. The investigation team also recorded statements of eyewitnesses. The dots were connected and within a few days the investigation was clear that Maqsood and Rauf were not hit by dacoits’ firing.

“Ali Eidain, the arrested bandit, actually told the investigation team that they were not armed. However, this fact was not corroborated through any other independent source or evidence. Finally the team got the CCTV [closed-circuit television] cameras’ footage that exposed each and every aspect of the story.”

The official said that arrested suspects Babar and Eidain were professional criminals and had a history of such activities and were also wanted by the Punjab police for several cases registered in Lahore and Multan. The police party which took part in the “encounter” was genuinely looking for them and acting on a tip-off they intercepted them on main Sharea Faisal.

“But the way the policemen fired on Rauf and Maqsood was totally unwarranted and unnecessary. The dacoits had surrendered before the police party and they were unarmed. Indiscriminate firing at the rickshaw without confirming the identity [of the occupants] is simply barbaric. It is a miracle that Murtaza and Rauf survived,” said the official.

‘Murder in broad daylight’

The family of Maqsood and rights activists demand transparent and smooth probe into the case accusing police of “committing murder in broad daylight”.

Accompanied by social activist and lawyer Jibran Nasir, they told media that the charge sheet filed by the police in court had revealed many things.

“Police have committed a murder in broad daylight. We demand CCTV footage of the incident be made public,” Mr Nasir said, claiming the CCTV footage clearly showed that there was no attempt by the robbers to stop the rickshaw.

“The robbers reportedly pretended that their vehicle had been in an accident and on the pretext of rushing to the hospital they tried to get away on the rickshaw Maqsood had been travelling in,” said Nasir. “The police then chased the rickshaw in a private car and cornered it, dragged the men out, sat them on road and shot them. We demand the bail given to police officials involved in the case be cancelled and a case should be registered against them under the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA).”

Published in Dawn, March 28th, 2018

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