Undercover cop, his friend arrested for allegedly killing college student in Orangi Town 'encounter'
Karachi police on Tuesday arrested a constable and his friend for allegedly shooting to death a college student and injuring another in what the police had initially claimed as an encounter in Orangi Town.
The incident drew widespread condemnation on social media and sparked a protest by relatives and community members, prompting higher authorities including DIG West Nasir Aftab to take notice. The latter held talks with the protesters at the Abbasi Shaheed Hospital, where the body was being kept, till early Tuesday morning.
Police subsequently arrested the constable, identified as Tauheed, and his friend, Umair and registered a first information report (FIR) under sections 34 (common intention), 109 (punishment of abetment if the act abetted committed in consequence and where no express provision is made for its punishment), 302 (murder), 324 (attempted murder) and 394 (voluntarily causing hurt in committing robbery) of the Pakistan Penal Code and Section 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act.
According to the FIR, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, the complainant Badshah Khan said that he had been alerted by a relative on Monday at 9:15pm that his nephew, Arsalan Mehsud, and his friend, Yasir, were injured by gunfire and had been rushed to Abbasi Shaheed Hospital.
"Upon being alerted, I immediately reached Abbasi Shaheed Hospital with my relatives and got to know that my nephew, Arsalan, had died," the FIR quoted him as saying. It said Arsalan was 16 years old and was a college student.
Khan said that he later learned that Arsalan had gone for tuition with his friend on a motorcycle as per usual. While returning at around 8:30pm, the FIR said the two were injured in gunfire within the limits of Orangi Town Police Station. The family had initially believed the incident was a mugging gone wrong.
Upon further inquiry, it emerged that a police officer, Tauheed was on "intelligence duty" and had shot at Arsalan and Yasir, resulting in the former's death. Tauheed was accompanied by his friend when the incident occurred.
For his part, the policeman told investigators during preliminary probe that he thought the victim was "taking out a pistol" to fire upon him because of which he retaliated.
A senior police official, who asked not to be named, told Dawn.com that now that the case had been registered, police will investigate the case from all angles and bring the perpetrators to justice.
To a question about the protocol in such incidents, the official admitted that a policeman in civilian clothes was not supposed to take action. "However, in extreme circumstances and when it is obvious that there is some danger to the public, the policeman or any civilian may take any desirable action to prevent harm to the public," they added.
The victim's friend, on the other hand, told the investigation team that they thought constable Tauheed and his friend were "dacoits" as they were not in uniform.
According to Police Surgeon Dr Qarar Ahmed Abbasi, the autopsy showed that Arsalan was hit by a single bullet in the back which had pierced his chest. He also suffered bruises possibly due to falling off the bike after being shot.
By midnight, hundreds of men had gathered at the Trauma Centre of the Abbasi Shaheed Hospital to condole with the victim's father and protest what they termed as "yet another extrajudicial killing".
The demonstrators included relatives and friends of the victim as well as representatives of several political parties, including the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, Awami National Party and the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement, besides others.
Sher Afridi, the deputy general secretary of ANP Sindh, told Dawn.com that the young man "mercilessly killed by the police" was a grade 12 student at the Hope College.
"They [authorities] say peace has come to Karachi. Is this what they call peace?" he questioned, counting off recent incidents of violence in the city.
Afridi also lashed out at what he termed as irresponsible reporting by the media. "Some media channels declared the young man [Arsalan Mehsud] a dacoit soon after the fake encounter," he claimed.
Less than an hour after the incident, the Karachi Police Media Cell broadcast a message, saying an "unknown accused" had been shot dead in an exchange of fire, while his other one companion fled away from the spot. The message, sent via Whatsapp, added that "01 Pistol with 05 rounds recovered" and further investigation continues.
"If there had been no hue and cry on social media and we hadn't gathered here, this would've been brushed under the carpet like so many other extrajudicial killings," lamented Noorullah Tareen, the PTM's provincial coordinator.
"The state is responsible for citizens' security. If it keeps failing like this, there will be anarchy," warned Tareen.
Afridi, seated next to him, concurred. "If my brother, my mother, my uncle aren't safe, how can I trust the state?" he questioned. These extrajudicial killings are causing disenfranchisement among the public. This needs to stop."
PTI MNA Alamgir Khan too reached the hospital to condole with the victim's family.
MNA Mohsin Dawar condemned the incident, saying that extrajudicial killings continued with no consequences for the culprits. He demanded the provincial government to take action against those responsible for Arsalan's death.
Lawyer and activist Jibran Nasir said the incident was yet another "fake encounter in Karachi".
He pointed out that the deceased was the son of an important individual hence the "huge protest" and resulting police action.
"Whereas those victims without any socio-political support are further harassed and abused by police."
Journalist Malik Achakzai called out Prime Minister Imran Khan and Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari, asking how long they would remain silent on the incident.