A Joint Investigation Team (JIT) constituted to investigate Saturday's police 'encounter' in Sahiwal has held officers of the Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) responsible for the killings of three "innocent" members of the same family, Punjab Law Minister Raja Basharat announced on Tuesday.
Addressing a press conference after a meeting that was held to review the JIT's preliminary report, Basharat said the government has decided to remove several officers of the CTD upon recommendations of the investigation team.
According to the minister, the Additional IG operations Punjab has been immediately removed from his post and ordered to report to the federal government, the AIG CTD Punjab has been removed, the DIG CTD has also been removed and ordered to report to the federal government, the SSP CTD and DSP CTD Sahiwal region have been suspended.
Additionally, five CTD officials involved in the 'encounter' have been ordered to be presented before an anti-terrorism court after being challaned in the case.
The minister revealed that the JIT head has sought additional time to further investigate and present facts concerning Zeeshan Javaid, the fourth person killed in the CTD operation who the agency alleges has links with a terrorist outfit.
"It is our commitment with the nation that we have to fulfil the requisites of justice and leave no stone unturned to provide justice to the affected family," Basharat said at the news conference, adding that the provincial government will treat the incident as a "test case" to ensure justice is done.
Although the minister evaded most of the reporters' questions saying an "in-camera briefing" will be held for media representatives on Wednesday to reveal all facts, he maintained that the Sahiwal operation was "100 per cent correct" despite the family members' killing.
The JIT probing the incident in which four people were killed had submitted its preliminary report to the Punjab government in the evening today. A high-level meeting headed by Chief Minister Usman Buzdar was held to review the report and receive a briefing from the JIT head.
Besides Raja Basharat, Punjab minister Abdul Aleem Khan, the chief secretary and additional chief secretary for home, Punjab Inspector General of Police Amjad Javed Saleemi as well top officials from relevant agencies attended the meeting. Additional Inspector General (AIG) Ijaz Hussain Shah, who headed the JIT, was in attendance as well.
In what law enforcers had initially described as an 'encounter' with terrorists, an elite division of the Punjab police had on Saturday killed four people: parents Khalil and Nabeela, their teenage daughter, and their neighbour Zeeshan.
The killings sent a shock wave across the country as one of the 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 had constituted a JIT under the supervision of AIG Shah to investigate the incident. Chief Minister Buzdar had said the JIT would submit its preliminary report after 72 hours by Tuesday (today).
Earlier today, while speaking to reporters, AIG Shah said that the report that would be presented today could not be considered a "final report". He said a comprehensive report on a tragedy of this nature could not be completed in two or three days.
According to the AIG, six personnel of the CTD have been taken into custody and are being questioned. He added that the JIT team had recorded the statements of five eyewitnesses.
The eyewitnesses in their accounts claimed that police had fired the first bullet and the individuals who were killed in the incident had not seemed to cause any trouble. A day prior, the JIT team had also visited the scene of the incident, collected evidence and recorded eyewitness accounts.
According to one eyewitness, police started firing from their vehicle as a result of which the children's mother was struck, following which she fell onto the children. The police then removed the children from the car and started firing again, they said.
Khalil, a resident of Kot Lakhpat, Lahore, his wife Nabeela, their 13-year-old daughter, and their neighbour, Zeeshan, were on their way to a wedding in Burewala when they were killed in firing on their car near the toll plaza on GT Road in the Qadirabad area.
Three children in the car survived. Khalil and Nabeela's minor son sustained a bullet injury while their two other daughters remained unhurt.
According to an initial medical examination, Khalil sustained 13 bullet wounds in his chest and head, his wife Nabeela sustained four, Zeeshan was found to have 10 bullet injuries; and Areeba, six bullets, hospital sources told DawnNewsTV.
CTD officials initially said those killed in the shooting were terrorists belonging to the proscribed Daesh (ISIS) militant organisation. The CTD spokesperson identified one of them, Zeeshan, as an active member of the banned outfit, explaining that the terrorists used to travel with families to avoid police checking.
The CTD Sahiwal team was conducting a joint Intelligence-Based Operation on the basis of information from the CTD and a sensitive agency, the spokesperson said, adding that they had to retaliate when they came under fire from those in the car.
As the news flashed on TV screens, scores of relatives of the deceased family took to the streets, blocking traffic on the Lahore-Kasur road to protest the murder.
To ascertain facts, the prime minister had ordered an immediate inquiry into the matter.
Later that evening, Chief Minister Buzdar directed IG Police Amjad Javed Saleemi to ensure the arrest of all the personnel involved in the killing of the four persons.
Amid countrywide outrage, the CTD on Sunday changed its stance, saying it was actually following Zeeshan — the man behind the wheel of the car that was showered with bullets — because he was a facilitator of terrorists, and regretted the killing of Khalil and his wife and daughter.