LAHORE: Civil society and students associations took out a protest rally here on Sunday to express their concerns at the extra-judicial killings in Sahiwal and demand action against perpetrators of the tragedy.
They also demanded respect for and protection of the right to life, an end to ‘official’ kidnappings, and implementing the Supreme Court verdict in Faizabad sit-in case.
The march began from Anarkali and terminated at the Charing Cross on The Mall where heirs of the Sahiwal tragedy victims also joined the protesters.
Organised under the banner of ‘Shehri Tahaffuz March’ (citizen protection march), the activists of the Progressive Students Collective, Revolutionary Students Federation, Peoples Democratic Front, Haqooq-i-Khalq Movement, kiln workers as well as some proponents of Potohar province participated in the rally.
Prominent among them were Senator Farhatullah Babar, Farooq Tariq, Dr Ammar Ali Jan (the educationist who was picked by police from his home a day ago for supporting Pakhtun Tahaffuz Movement only to be bailed out by a court hours after), academic Aima Khosa, PPP leaders Barrister Amer Hassan and Faisal Mir, Bilal Mir and kiln workers leader Mahmood Butt.
The protesters raised slogans against sham police encounters, terming the counter terrorism department of police a “killer force” and demanding accountability of the killers.
Addressing the participants, Senator Babar lauded the civil society for showing solidarity with the victims of Sahiwal tragedy, saying they did what the political parties should be doing.
He said deceased Khalil’s son Umair in his statement before the Joint Investigation Team exposed the CTD claims that the victims were shot dead by their own “accomplices” during crossfire with the law enforcers.
He said now the question was that (as per Umair’s statement) with whom the CTD officials contacted on phone before spraying bullets on the child’s father, mother and elder sister.
He said the voice of the protesters would become louder and louder if justice was not provided to the victim families.
The parliamentarian said that in the light of the Supreme Court order in the Faizabad sit-in case a peaceful protest was the right of every citizen and party and the authorities must not deny this right.
He said all political parties should discuss the apex court verdict in the parliament, seeking suggestions for its implementation.
He also demanded release of senior journalist Rizwan Razi who was in custody of the Federal Investigation Agency in a cyber crime case and urged the people to raise their voice for other victims before it’s too late.
He said all those in custody of law enforcers must be produced before courts.
Senior journalist Imtiaz Alam said the peaceful protest was “not a war against the state” but an appeal to the state to protect its citizens.
He lamented that even the apex court verdict was censored by the media.
Deceased Zeeshan’s mother demanded a judicial commission to probe into the killings and rejected the government’s announcement of financial aid. She said even if her son was a terrorist, the law enforcers could have arrested him alive to penalise him through proper prosecution.
Deceased Khalil’s brother Jalil said they were not satisfied with the JIT.
Criticising the composition of the JIT, lawyer Safdar Sindhu claimed that DSP Khalid Abu Bakar, who is part of the JIT, was a known “encounter specialist” and that a case against him was pending in a court of law.
The Awami Workers Party leader Farooq Tariq regretted that the law-enforcers first killed the people and then decide whether the target was innocent or not.
Demanding prosecution of the CTD men involved in Sahiwal killings, he rejected the JIT formed by the government saying “police cannot hold police accountable”. He said the JIT report would be accepted only if it was acceptable to the victim families.
He demanded that the officer who ordered shooting of the victims of Sahiwal incident should be exposed and the police who trespassed Prof Ammar Ali Jan’s Lahore house be suspended from service and arrested.
Barrister Amer and Faisal Mir also spoke.
A street theatre highlighting the mistreatment, particularly of Pakhtuns, by police at pickets was also performed.
Published in Dawn, February 11th, 2019