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Opposition in Senate dismisses Sahiwal JIT as smokescreen

Updated January 22, 2019

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Relatives of Khalil, who was killed along with his wife, daughter and driver in police firing, wail during the funeral. — File photo
Relatives of Khalil, who was killed along with his wife, daughter and driver in police firing, wail during the funeral. — File photo

ISLAMABAD: The opposition in the Senate on Monday rejected the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) over the Sahiwal tragedy as a mere smokescreen and called for swift action to punish all those responsible for the killings.

Speaking on an adjournment motion, the Senators observed that even if the victims were terrorists — as claimed by the Punjab government — they deserved the due process of law.

They pointed out that the Constitution guarantees the right to live and the state is bound to protect lives, honour and property of its citizens.

They voiced concern over the registration of an FIR against ‘unknown’ assailants and U-turns taken by the Punjab government functionaries who have initially claimed to have killed terrorists to recover ‘abducted children’.

Voices concern over registration of FIR against ‘unknown’ assailants and Punjab government’s changing stances

They said the announcement of compensation of Rs20 million was nothing short of confession of brutal murders.

They highlighted that the barbaric incident took place in broad daylight in the presence of a large number of people, with many of them capturing the scenes on their mobile phones that was sufficient to uncover the truth. Many Senators sought a ruling from the chair over the matter.

Taking part in the discussion, Pakistan Peoples Party parliamentary leader in the Senate Sherry Rehman said that the JIT formed by the government appeared to be an attempt at a cover-up.

She criticised the Punjab government for continuously changing positions and was shocked by the disclosure that all that happened was preplanned. She observed that the extrajudicial killings would never stop if the Senate failed to act this time.

Ms Rehman said that the Punjab government had declared the victims terrorists. “If they were terrorists, was there no option but to open fire on them. Now people are asking whether we should go out of houses with children or not,” she said.

She said the counterterrorism department should be held accountable and a reply should come within 24 hours.

Emir of the Jamaat-i-Islami Senator Sirajul Haq said the Sahiwal tragedy was a serious matter. He regretted that the Punjab government kept on changing its position. He said even wild beasts did not attack children like this.

He said responsibility of the brutality should be fixed and it should be known which intelligence agencies provided wrong information about the victims. He argued that even terrorists could not be killed on the road.

“Let all the courts be locked if the police are to decide who is terrorist and then award the punishment themselves,” he remarked.

He called for a complete audit of all the extrajudicial killings by the CTD.

Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl’s parliamentary leader Abdul Ghafoor Haidri said the Punjab government had initially told the media that four terrorists had been killed to recover three abducted children from their possession.

He said a story had also been concocted to show that the victims belonged to the militant Islamic State group, which the government claimed had no footprints in Pakistan. He lamented that the Punjab government was still sticking to its claim that those killed were terrorists.

He said those responsible must be held accountable.

Usman Kakar of the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party said action should also be taken against those who provided wrong information.

Jehanzaib Jamaldini of the Balochistan National Party-Mengal said the horrific incident had rocked the entire country.

There should be less politics and more investigation over it, he said, adding that a commission having representation from both houses of parliament should be formed to expose the characters behind it.

Sitara Ayaz of the Awami National Party, Mir Kabir of the National Party, Khuda Babar of the Balochistan Awami Party and Javed Abbasi of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz also took part in the discussion.

Published in Dawn, January 22nd, 2019