Presence of US senator’s guard in PM meeting irks Senate panel

Updated January 22, 2019

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Senator Lindsey Graham and Prime Minister Imran Khan during a meeting. — File photo
Senator Lindsey Graham and Prime Minister Imran Khan during a meeting. — File photo

ISLAMABAD: A senate panel on Monday lamented the presence of a US senator’s guard during his meeting with Prime Minister Imran Khan, terming it disgrace to the country.

Senate Standing Committee on Interior chairman and former interior minister Rehman Malik said the members wanted to know why US Senator Lindsey Graham’s guard had been allowed to remain present during the meeting with the prime minister and directed the interior secretary to submit details on the matter.

The committee during its meeting called for a judicial probe into the Sahiwal tragedy in which four people, including three members of a family, were killed in front of their children.

Mr Malik was of the view that the police could not be given the licence to kill and even if there was evidence against them, the Senate committee must be given the reason for not arresting them instead. “It is an alarming situation that how lawlessly unarmed civilians were killed in broad daylight by Punjab police on the main highway in front of dozens of citizens,” he remarked.

Seeks judicial probe into Sahiwal tragedy

The committee sought a detailed report from the interior ministry about all such encounters that took place over the past 10 years. Mr Malik said all questions submitted to the ministry must be responded to in great detail. He directed that a judicial commission be formed under a senior high court judge and its terms and reference be made public.

The committee chairman also stressed the need for clarity whether or not the militant Islamic State group was present in Pakistan and sought a report from the interior ministry on the matter.

He said the Senate committee would like to see if those killed in Sahiwal had any criminal record. He added that the judicial commission must look into the evidence available with the Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) against the suspects as well as the reasons why killing of the children was attempted, wondering whether this was an attempt to eliminate witnesses.

Mr Malik ordered a thorough probe into the incident based on ground realities and asked the interior ministry to submit a comprehensive report with answers from the Punjab police chief and home secretary. The committee has sought details and profile of the deceased, including their past criminal record or FIR, if any.

The committee chairman said they wanted to know what made the police to follow the family traveling in a small car and what the concrete evidence was to consider the deceased as prime suspects.

The committee wondered when the alleged suspects had stopped the car on the CTD order, then why the police opened fire on them. It sought full police version on the incident — at what level such action was ordered, was there any FIR wherein these deceased were ever summoned or interrogated, and was there any intelligence report on record against them?

The committee also sought profile and service history of all the CTD personnel involved in the shootout — whether any of them belonged to the local area or had personal animosity towards the deceased or any other members of the victim family?

Another question raised by the committee was that if it was a police encounter, was it being supervised by senior police officers as per laws?

The Senate committee also asked the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority to provide all footages of the incident aired by TV channels.

Published in Dawn, January 22nd, 2019