Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday met the family of the victims of the Sahiwal 'encounter' case at the Chief Minister's Secretariat in Lahore, and distributed cheques worth Rs30 million, according to Punjab government’s spokesperson Shahbaz Gill.
The prime minister, who was accompanied by Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar, expressed his heartfelt condolences to the heirs of the victims.
The premier told the family that "while there can be no compensation for the loss of human lives, the government stands with the family and shares their grief."
Mohammad Jalil, the brother of one of the victims, said that the prime minister's visit had provided the family "a ray of hope", adding that they placed three demands before the government during the course of the meeting.
"Our first demand was that a judicial commission be formed to probe the incident. The second demand was that the case be transferred to Lahore. And the third demand was that the false FIR registered by the JIT be revoked," he told DawnNewsTV.
"Prime Minister Imran Khan agreed to all three of our demands and assured us that they will be met," said Jalil.
"We are now hopeful that we will get justice," he said, adding that the family will take to the streets again if justice was not provided.
Jalil also said that "the government has not done the family any favours by giving them the cheques and had only fulfilled the responsibility of the state."
The Sahiwal 'encounter'
In January 2019, Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) officials had shot four people dead, including a teenage girl Areeba and her parents, Mohammad Khalil and Nabila, on GT Road in Qadirabad area near Sahiwal.
The officials had claimed that the victims were killed in an 'intelligence-based operation', but their statement was called into question after two children, who were also in the car at the time of the incident, said that the family, along with one of their neighbours, were going to attend a wedding.
Later, the officials said they had received a report that the fourth victim, Zeeshan Javed, the family's neighbour who was driving the car, was affiliated with a terrorist outfit. Punjab Law Minister Raja Basharat had subsequently termed the killing of the parents and their teenage daughter as "collateral damage".
Soon after the incident, the Punjab government had constituted a joint investigation team (JIT) under the supervision of Additional Inspector General of Police Ijaz Shah.
However, after the families of the deceased expressed dissatisfaction with the JIT, the Lahore High Court ordered on February 14 that a judicial inquiry be conducted.
A sessions judge had thereafter appointed civil judge-cum-judicial magistrate Shakeel Goraya to hold the inquiry into the incident within 30 days.
The Judicial Inquiry Officer (JIO) recorded statements of 49 people including eyewitnesses, deceased Khalil’s son Muhammad Ibrahim, the CTD suspects, personnel of the Yousafwala police station, Rescue 1122 and the Bomb Disposal Squad and complainants of both FIRs — one registered at the CTD, Lahore and the other at the Yousafwala police station, Sahiwal.
The JIT led by Goraya during the course of its probe had declared Khalil and his family innocent, but termed the car driver Zeeshan a terrorist.
On March 3, Gill had said that the JIT has rejected the CTD's claim of crossfire in the Sahiwal operation. Furthermore, the team found no evidence of the presence of suspected motorcyclists.
On April 4, the six CTD officials who have been nominated in the case were produced before the Anti Terrorism Court in Sahiwal. The ATC fixed for hearing a plea filed by the suspects in which they seek the removal of Section 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) from the first information report (FIR) of the incident.