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LHC summons Punjab police chief over fake encounter in Sahiwal

January 22, 2019

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The petition has made the Punjab govt, the counter-terrorism department and the Punjab IG respondents in the case. — File
The petition has made the Punjab govt, the counter-terrorism department and the Punjab IG respondents in the case. — File

The Lahore High Court on Tuesday summoned Punjab Inspector General of Police (IGP) Amjad Javed Saleemi to court while taking up a petition demanding an impartial inquiry into the Sahiwal killings through a judicial commission.

The elite Punjab police had in a fake encounter on Saturday killed four people, including parents Khalil and Nabeela, their teenage daughter, and neighbour Zeeshan, sending shock waves across the country as one of the couple's three surviving children who were witness to the episode denied the official version in a video that went viral on social media.

The Punjab government maintained that Zeeshan had links to Daesh and was "working with terrorists", and that the slain family members were all "collateral damage". Following the incident, a joint investigation team (JIT) was formed to probe the matter, and a first information report was registered against the CTD officials involved in the operation, who were taken into custody on the chief minister's orders.

Lawyer Mian Asif Mahmood had on Monday petitioned the LHC arguing that the JIT formed by the provincial government would not be able to find out the truth and hold the responsible police personnel accountable for their crime.

The petitioner contended that the incident was "a matter of people's lives and the high court holds the authority to investigate". It argued that the government should have created a commission to inquire into the counter, rather "it formed a JIT and did away with its responsibility".

The government does not want a transparent inquiry into the Sahiwal incident, the petitioner claimed, calling for the formation of a judicial commission headed by a sitting judge to look into the matter and accord punishment to those responsible for the deaths.

He pointed out that the statistics of Punjab police revealed that it conducted 247 encounters in 2017, 91 in 2018 and about seven were reported during the first month of 2019.

The petitioner asked the court to direct the prime minister to constitute a judicial commission to hold an impartial inquiry into the incident. He submitted that the Punjab chief minister should also be directed to furnish a copy of a detailed report regarding the incident and other fake encounters and action taken against the police personnel.

He also sought a direction for the provincial police chief to bar his officials from opening fire on fleeing suspects and not equip them with automatic weapons.

The petitioner also pleaded that the provincial government be directed to initiate a compensatory relief package for the victims of the Sahiwal incident and execute the guilty cops within 90 days as had happened in the case of Zainab Amin, a minor who was raped and murdered in Kasur.

LHC Chief Justice Sardar Mohammad Shamim Ahmed commented that only the federal government has the power to form a commission to probe the matter.

The lawyer representing the government told the court that a joint investigation team had been formed to probe the incident already and "the government is taking the matter very seriously".

While accepting the petition for hearing, Justice Khan summoned the IGP Saleemi to court on January 24, ordering him to bring along all of the documents pertaining to the case.

"It is a matter of public interest," the LHC chief justice asserted.