LAHORE: A young girl was shot dead during an armed encounter between three suspected robbers and the Dolphin Force personnel near the Punjab University on Thursday noon.
Identified as Fatima (22), the girl was an employee of a call centre and her father, Aslam Hassan, was going to drop her on a motorcycle to her workplace when a bullet hit her in the neck, causing her death.
The shoot-out on the crowded road in the broad daylight raised questions about the professional skills of the Dolphin Force to chase the criminals on the city roads.
This is not the first time that Dolphin Force has found itself in the hot water for causing death or injuries to the citizens during encounters with the criminals on roads.
Police shift blame to suspects; CM orders inquiry
On May 29, 2018, a 14-year-old boy was killed by the firing of the Dolphin Force in Shadbagh as its personnel and robbers exchanged fire.
In June same year, four persons, including two children, were injured during an encounter between the Dolphin Force and the suspects in the Sabzazar area.
In May 2019, four personnel of the Dolphin Squad were arrested by Nishtar Colony police for being involved in killing of a Christian woman during their indiscriminate firing. After the incident, the then IGP retired Captain Arif Nawaz Khan had ordered revision of the standard operating procedures (SOPs) for the Dolphin Force for opening fire on the suspects.
In November 2018, Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar had ordered an inquiry into the killing of a man in Sabzazar by the Dolphin Force.
Though nobody knows what happened of that inquiry, Chief Minister Buzdar has, once again, directed the IG police to submit a report on the death of Fatima on Thursday. Extending his sympathies to the family of the girl, he assured them that they would be provided with justice. The IGP also directed the Lahore Operations DIG to submit a preliminary report on the incident.
About the Thursday’s incident, the police strongly denied the reports of the crossfire. Iqbal Town SP Operations retired Capt Mohammad Ajmal claimed that Fatima had died when one of the three robbers opened fire at the Dolphin Squad personnel during a long chase.
However, the matter is yet to be concluded as the weapons of the police personnel and the robbers have been sent for a forensic analysis.
Initially, there were reports that Fatima was a student of the Punjab University but the police denied that. The preliminary inquiry confirmed that she was resident of Nisthar Block, Iqbal Town, and her father, Aslam Hassan, was going to drop her at the call centre at around 3pm.
A spokesperson for the Dolphin Squad said all the three suspected robbers had been arrested.
Identified as Arshad, Faisal and Hassan, he said, the robbers were involved in around a dozen criminal cases lodged against them with various police stations.
The spokesperson added that the police 15 had received three calls of street crime within a couple of hours. He said the calls were about the same three robbers who had robbed citizens and shops in Samanabad, Millat Park and the Multan Road areas. As the location of the suspects, who were on a motorcycle, was provided to the police, the personnel of the Police Response Unit (PRU) started chasing them. It was a tough job for the PRU to chase them in the police car. Meanwhile, the Dolphin Force personnel on motorcycles were directed to support the PRU, he said and added that after being chased on the Multan Road, the robbers fled towards Bhekhewala Mor.
As soon as they crossed the traffic signal and reached the road to the Shaikh Zayed Hospital, they fired at the PRU and Dolphin Squad and the police vehicle hit their motorcycle.
“One of the three robbers, who had fallen down on the road, kept on firing and a bullet hit the girl,” the Dolphin Force spokesperson claimed. He further claimed that no crossfire was reported by the Dolphin and PRU personnel as they had avoided returning the fire due to the crowded road.
To a question, the spokesperson said the police high-ups immediately seized the weapons, including bullets, of the policemen who had chased the robbers to verify whether they had used bullets in the incident or not. The bullets counted by the officers matched the record of the section concerned of the Dolphin Squad when the personnel were sent to the field on Thursday, which showed that the policemen had not fired a single bullet in the incident, he concluded.
Meanwhile, the Iqbal Town police lodged a murder case against the three alleged robbers for allegedly killing the girl near the PU.
In the first information report, Aslam alleged that he was going to drop his daughter, Fatima, when the robbers fired shots and a bullet hit his daughter. He said the suspected robbers opened fire when the Dolphin Squad police hit their motorcycle during a chase near Bhekhewala Mor. Aslam said his daughter breathed her last at a local hospital where he had taken her on a rickshaw.
However, according to a TV channel, Aslam denied the ‘claim’ that his daughter was hit by the bullet fired by the suspects as he did not know the bullet was fired by the suspects or the police.
Published in Dawn, October 23rd, 2020