Police go back on initial version in Sahiwal killing case

Updated 21 Jan 2019

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LAHORE: Relatives of Khalil, who was killed along with his wife, daughter and driver in police firing, wail during the funeral on Sunday.—Online
LAHORE: Relatives of Khalil, who was killed along with his wife, daughter and driver in police firing, wail during the funeral on Sunday.—Online

LAHORE / SAHIWAL: As the four victims of Saturday’s Sahiwal shooting were laid to rest here on Sunday evening, the Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) said it was actually following Zeeshan, the man behind the wheel of the car that was showered with bullets, and regretted the killing of a couple and their 13-year-old daughter.

The CTD had, on Saturday, described all the four deceased as terrorists. Changing its stand amid countrywide outrage, the CTD said it was following Zeeshan because he was a facilitator of terrorists. It claimed that two terrorists, Kashif and Abdul Rahman, who were killed in an encounter with the CTD in Gujranwala later on Saturday night, were Zeeshan’s accomplices.

The funeral prayer of Khalil, his wife Nabeela, their daughter, Areeba, and neighbour Zeeshan were offered at Ferozepur Road near Chungi Amar Sidhu in Lahore. As a large number of people attended the funeral, others from different parts of the country shared their grief through social media. Rallies were staged in Peshawar and Sukkur to denounce the killings.

While the couple and their daughter were laid to rest in Kahna graveyard, Zeeshan’s family and relatives placed his body on Ferozepur Road and blocked it in protest against Punjab Law Minister Basharat Raja’s claim at a press conference that he was a terrorist. The minister also described the killing of Khalil, his wife and daughter as “collateral damage”.

Shooting victims laid to rest amid protest in Lahore

Demanding the minister’s resignation, they resolved to continue protest till the acceptance of their demand. However, after negotiations with an official team, they ended the protest at 11pm.

Cases registered

Meanwhile, Sahiwal police registered a case under murder and terrorism charges against 16 unidentified officials of the CTD on the complaint of Khalil’s brother Muhammad Jalil.

The initial post-mortem report says Khalil was hit by 13 bullets, Nabeela four, Areeba six and Zeeshan 10, in the head, shoulder and chest. The bullets were fired at point blank range.

The CTD, on the other hand, registered a case under attempt to murder, murder, terrorism and other charges against the “suspected terrorists”.

Punjab Law Minister Raja Basharat said at the press conference that Chief Minister Usman Buzdar had announced compensation of Rs20 million for Khalil’s family.

The law minister and some other members of the provincial cabinet held the press conference to brief the media about the shocking incident.

He said that the supervisor of the CTD team involved in the incident had been suspended from service and other officials who took part in the operation had been taken into custody.

The law minister said that the Punjab home department had issued a notification for formation of a high-powered joint investigation team, to be headed by Additional Inspector General Ijaz Hussain Shah, to probe the incident and present its report to the government in three days. One representative each of the Inter-Services Intelligence and the Intelligence Bureau will be member of the team.

He announced that the state would take the responsibility of Khalil’s minor son and two daughters

Raja Basharat said that Zeeshan was working for a banned terrorist organisation, Daesh, and he was involved in the killing of an intelligence official in Multan, kidnapping of Ali Haider Gillani, son of former premier Yousuf Raza Gillani, and murder of two police officials in Faisalabad.

The minister claimed that in the murder of an ISI officer in Multan, a silver-colour Honda City car was used which police and intelligence agencies were searching for. On Jan 13, the car was spotted “carrying some terrorists to Sahiwal”.

He said they would share the video and pictures from the Safe City cameras to show that Zeeshan’s car “was also being used by the terrorists”. CCTV footage from Jan 13 was later shown at the press conference in which a silver Honda City car could be seen trailing a white Alto car.

The minister said that the law enforcement agencies officials were conducting surveillance of the car and watched footage between Jan 13 and 18 and it was verified that Zeeshan was working with terrorists on Jan 18.

He claimed that the law enforcement agency officials reached Zeeshan’ house on Jan 18 and found suspected terrorists were present there along with explosive material.

He said since Zeeshan’s house was located in a congested area, conducting an operation there was not feasible. It was, therefore, decided to wait for the suspected terrorists to leave in the car.

Raja Basharat said that on the next day, the white Alto was spotted in Manga Mandi area on Multan Road and the CTD was informed about it.

He said that according to intelligence reports, the terrorists carrying explosives were headed towards a congested area. “When the car was stopped near Sahiwal, firing took place.”

He said that since the car had tinted window glasses, people sitting on the back seat could not be seen. Zeeshan was driving the car.

The law minister said that the JIT formed to probe the incident had been tasked with determining “how and why the firing took place”. Further action would be taken on the basis of the JIT report, he added.

PM shocked

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Imran Khan expressed concern over the Sahiwal incident and tweeted: “Still shocked at seeing the traumatised children who saw their parents shot before their eyes. Any parent would be shocked as they would think of their own children in such a traumatic situation. These children will now be fully looked after by the state as its responsibility.”

In another tweet, the prime minister said: “While the CTD has done a great job in fighting terrorism, everyone must be accountable before the law. As soon as JIT report comes, swift action will be taken. The govt’s priority is protection of all its citizens.”

President Arif Alvi said that the Sahiwal tragedy was heart-wrenching and the incident had traumatised the children who lost their parents. “We cannot even imagine their pain,” said the president, adding that the government would take care of the children, but there was no substitute to parents.

The president said that the culprits would be given punishment for the murders.

Sources said law enforcement agencies had apparently convinced the chief minister and the law minister during a meeting that the Sahiwal operation was a well-informed, intelligence-based action. However, the JIT will determine whether the handling of the operation was sensible.

Sources claimed that the chief minister held a marathon in-camera meeting with the officials of the CTD and intelligence agencies and was shown evidence, e.g. Safe City camera footages.

Sources quoted law enforcement agencies’ officials as telling the meeting that in the past terrorists had been seen using innocent people as human shield and cited an incident in which a woman had detonated explosives she was carrying while her two children were sitting in her lap.

The chief minister reportedly said that the authenticity of the claims of the CTD and intelligence agencies would be determined by the JIT.

DPO Ali Zia and DC Muhammad Zaman Wattoo negotiated with the protesters and assured them the FIR had been registered. They ended the blockade after getting a copy of the FIR.

Khalil’s brother Muhammad Jalil criticised police for registering the case against 16 unidentified officials.

Khalil’s minor son and two daughters, who have survived the shooting, were shifted to Lahore by police.

Mansoor Malik also contributed to this report

Published in Dawn, January 21st, 2019