LAHORE: The Punjab government on Monday filed an appeal in the Lahore High Court challenging the acquittal of all suspected police personnel in the Sahiwal carnage wherein four people were gunned down in an alleged encounter.

Additional Prosecutor General Abdul Samad filed the appeal on behalf of the government pointing out several legal lacunae in the impugned judgement passed by the trial court last week.

An anti-terrorism court had acquitted all the six personnel of Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) charged with the killings after all the witnesses resiled from their statements.

The government pleaded in the appeal that the trial court ignored facts of the case and video and forensic evidences. The appeal said the trial court neither provided protection to the witnesses nor took action against them after they resiled from their statements. It submitted that the trial court should have held in-camera proceedings of a highly sensitive case and it overlooked the report of the joint investigation team.

The government asked the court to set aside the trial court’s verdict and punish the suspects under the law. It also sought action against those responsible for the flawed investigation into the case and the witnesses for changing their statements.

On Jan 19, Muhammad Khalil, his wife Nabeela and their four children were travelling in a car that was being driven by their neighbour Zeeshan when the CTD personnel intercepted the vehicle and opened fire on the passengers suspecting them to be terrorists.

Three minor children of Khalil -- Muhammad Umair, Jazba and Muneeba -- survived the attack with minor injuries.

Yousafwala police had registered the first information report on the complaint of Muhammad Jalil, the brother of deceased Khalil, under sections 302, 324, 337 (F1, F-A1 & F3), 201 of PPC and Section 7 of Anti-Terrorism Act 1997.

Suspects Safdar Hussain, Ahsan Khan, Muhammad Ramzan, Saifullah, Hasnain Akbar and Nasir Nawaz had been indicted by the trial court. However, they were exonerated from the charge.

The prosecution had presented 24 private witnesses, however, all of them exonerated the suspects from the charge and majority of them maintained that they knew nothing about the incident, while some of them said they reached the crime scene after the occurrence.

“The prosecution has failed to prove the case against the accused persons up to hilt and there is no cavil to the preposition that court has not to take into consideration heinousness or gruesome nature of the occurrence while dispensing justice and the court has to see the evidence available on record because heaven may fall but justice should be done,” ruled the trial court.

Published in Dawn, October 29th, 2019