KARACHI: An infant boy travelling with his family in a rickshaw on main University Road was killed allegedly by police firing on Tuesday in yet another incident of apparent negligence and non-professionalism involving policemen. Some half a dozen innocent citizens have been killed by law enforcers during the past one year, exposing authorities’ claims of reforms in the police department.

The authorities claimed that the exchange of gunfire took place between armed suspects and policemen riding on a motorbike when they were chasing them.

The family of the infant boy alleged that the policemen were very close to their rickshaw and their firing was so intense that it sparked panic and fear in the area.

“Kashif Sheikh along with his wife and three children was going to his home in Gulistan-i-Jauhar Block-8 in a rickshaw,” Lateef Sheikh, a maternal cousin of the victim’s father told Dawn. “He told us that he and his family decided to stop at a roadside bakery near Safoora Chowrangi to buy some snacks for the kids. As the rickshaw slowed down, all of a sudden several gunshots were heard. And when the guns fell silent, they noticed their son with stains of blood.”

A Sindh govt official demands accountability of police force

The family rushed to a nearby private hospital, where doctors pronounced the child, Hassan Sheikh, 19 months old, dead, he added.

Quoting the victim’s father, he said the policemen did not bother to stop or to warn any of the persons before carrying out firing in the busy commercial area.

Only last week, a 10-year-old boy Sajjad Khan was killed after getting caught in an exchange of fire between police and an alleged criminal in Landhi.

Before last week’s incident, final-year medical student Nimra Baig in North Karachi, 10-year-old Amal Umer in DHA, young Maqsood on main Sharea Faisal, 19-year-old Intizar Ahmed in DHA and a few more met the same fate over the past one year.

Adviser wants accountability of police

The provincial government, which had already put the Sindh police under its radar, came up with a strong reaction to the latest incident, as Chief Minister’s Adviser on Law and Information Murtaza Wahab called for “police accountability”.

“Since August 2018 this is the fifth or sixth such incident which has claimed the life of an innocent citizen. The police talk about powers but it should also talk about accountability. This incident again speaks for the need of police accountability,” he told Dawn.

Meanwhile, the police authorities arrested the two cops allegedly involved in the ‘encounter’.

DIG East Amir Farooqi said that the law would take its course and whoever was found responsible would face due process.

“The police were chasing dacoits and fired on them which hit the boy,” he said. “The policemen chased the suspects and during the exchange of fire, a minor boy travelling with the family in a rickshaw was killed. The suspects however ran away.”

He said both the policemen were arrested as there were clear instructions to the police not to resort to firing at open public places. “An inquiry has already been initiated,” he added.

Published in Dawn, April 17th, 2019