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Punjab Assembly members given in-camera briefing on Sahiwal killings

Updated January 25, 2019

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Opposition records protest over ignoring of speaker's ruling that briefing would be given to PA before the media. — File
Opposition records protest over ignoring of speaker's ruling that briefing would be given to PA before the media. — File

LAHORE: For the first time in the history of Punjab Assembly, its members were given an in-camera briefing on an incident here on Thursday --- the bungled operation by the Counter Terrorism Department near Sahiwal, killing four people, three of them of a family, including a 13-year-old girl.

The opposition, however, recorded its protest over ignoring of Speaker Pervaiz Elahi’s ruling that the in-camera briefing would be given to the Punjab Assembly members before the media.

“Despite Law Minister Raja Basharat’s assurance to the speaker in the House (on Wednesday) that the government would first give briefing to the lawmakers, it did not bother to honour its commitment,” an opposition member said.

Talking to Dawn, the lawmaker said Mr Elahi in protest also did not attend the in-camera briefing in the House.

Chief Minister Usman Buzdar was conspicuous by his absence during the in-camera briefing. He left for Islamabad to meet Prime Minister Imran Khan in connection with the Sahiwal tragedy in which four persons, including three members of a family, were shot dead near Sahiwal in a ‘fake’ encounter conducted by the Counter Terrorism Department on Saturday last.

The opposition members termed his absence in the all-important session disappointing.

“Mr Buzdar is leader of the House and he was missing from the assembly’s Thursday session. This shows (the level of ) his seriousness,” Opposition Leader Hamza Shahbaz said satirically.

PPP parliamentary leader in the Punjab Assembly Mr Hasan Murtaza demanded Mr Buzdar’s resignation over the Sahiwal tragedy.

“We demand Usman Buzdar’s resignation. Besides, an FIR should be registered against him as without an order from the top, police cannot act on their own to kill civilians,” Mr Murtaza observed. “Punjab is being run non-seriously,” he added.

When asked about proceedings of in-camera session, the PPP leader said: “I will not disclose its proceedings, but today we felt that we were sitting in a classroom and a headmaster was lecturing us.”

He lamented the Punjab government was sweeping the “facts” under the carpet. “We reject the JIT report and demand the government to immediately constitute judicial commission for the purpose,” Mr Murtaza said.

During the briefing, an opposition member asked that when the CTD could have easily taken the victims into custody why it chose to eliminate them? Another MPA observed that the law enforcement agencies grossly mishandled the so-called operation against suspects.

Talking to reporters after the in-camera briefing, Hamza Shahbaz said the opposition was not satisfied with the briefing and the JIT report.

“We reject the JIT report and demand constitution of a judicial commission to probe into the matter.” We have to seek justice for the innocent children of the victim family. We have to get the culprits publicly hanged and our struggle will continue till then,” he said.

He said the opposition had asked the law minister to bring forth the facts before the House but that did not happen.

“Today in the House we felt more need for the judicial commission. If the JIT members are from those departments that committed this atrocity they shouldn’t be allowed to probe this,” he demanded.

Earlier, Prime Minister Imran Khan had told the PTI parliamentarians that if the opposition wanted a judicial commission to probe the Sahiwal incident he would form it. When asked about the premier’s claim, Basharat Raja said judicial commission would be formed if the prime minister directed so.

Published in Dawn, January 25th, 2019