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LAHORE: The five-member Joint Investigation Team (JIT) formed to investigate the Sahiwal tragedy on Monday visited the crime scene, collected evidence and recorded eyewitness accounts.

In what law enforcers termed an encounter with terrorists, the Counter Ter­rorism Depart­ment (CTD) had killed four people, including Khalil, his wife Nabeela, their daughter, and family friend, Zeeshan, who was driving the car at the time of the incident.

The Punjab government had constituted the JIT headed by Additional IG Establishment Aijaz Shah and comprising officials of the Inter-Services Intelli­gence and Intelligence Bureau, DSP investigation Khalid Abubakar and SDPO Sahiwal, Saddar, Falak Sher.

One of the JIT members told Dawn that during their daylong visit they inspected the crime scene, the petrol pump (where the police took three surviving siblings) and made public announcement in and around the area asking locals to record their statements. He said 15 witnesses visited the Sahiwal Division Police Lines and recorded their statements.

Fifteen witnesses record their statements; PM vows exemplary punishment for those responsible for killings

He said they also had recorded the statements of 16 CTD personnel who were taken into custody after the registration of the case at Yousafwala police station. Their names were not mentioned in the FIR lodged by the aggrieved family.

The JIT official said they also included (in its investigation) an incident report filed by CTD chief Rai Tahir.

According to initial investigation, the operation was conducted on Saturday under the command of CTD sub-inspector Safdar Hus­sain in which four people, including three members of a family, were killed. The CTD claimed that Zeeshan was a member of the militant Islamic State group.

Ehtesham, brother of deceased Zeeshan, said CTD officials involved in the killing of his brother were “real terrorists” as they killed unarmed people. Ehtesham, a member of the police dolphin squad, said he did not know why the CTD had killed them when they had not put up any resistance.

Ehtesham said when he joined the squad, police had scrutinised his brother’s credentials as well. He asked Punjab Law Minister Raja Basharat to take back his statement labelling Zeeshan as a terrorist.

Khalil’s brother Mohammad Jalil said no government representative had yet contacted them. “It was announced that we will be given Rs20 million as compensation but we don’t need money. We want our loved ones back,” he said.

Meanwhile, two of three minor children of the deceased couple were discharged from the hospital where they were admitted for medical examination and treatment.

Prime Minister Imran Khan, who left for Doha on Monday for an official trip, vowed to give exemplary punishment to those involved in the incident and also reiterated to revamp the entire police structure.

Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar said the JIT would submit its preliminary report by Tuesday (today).

Punjab Law Minister Raja Basharat told the media that there was no need to constitute a judicial commission.

Federal Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari tweeted: “From Rao Anwar to the Sahiwal incident – as part of the government it is our duty to end decades of tolerance for killings through “encounters”. What was tolerated, even encouraged by prev governments / state must end now as we strengthen rule of law & and accountability for all.”

Shafiq Butt contributed to this report from Sahiwal

Published in Dawn, January 22nd, 2019