Deadlock over FIR lands Imran shooting probe in legal quagmire

Published November 5, 2022
Supporters of former Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan, take part in a protest near the container truck a day after the assassination attempt on Khan, at the cordoned-off site of a gun attack in Wazirabad on Friday. — AFP
Supporters of former Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan, take part in a protest near the container truck a day after the assassination attempt on Khan, at the cordoned-off site of a gun attack in Wazirabad on Friday. — AFP

• Sources say Imran refuses to drop army officer’s name from complaint despite Elahi’s insistence
• No application to lodge FIR received so far

LAHORE: While investigators caught two more suspects a day after the gun attack on ex-premier Imran Khan, a deadlock over the registration of a case continued following the reported refusal by the PTI chief to withdraw the name of a senior army officer from the complaint, which also carries the names of the prime minister and interior minister.

Reports suggest Punjab Chief Minister Chaudhry Pervez Elahi is caught between ‘the devil and the deep blue sea’ as Mr Khan, who essentially calls the shots for the ruling coalition in Punjab, continues to insist on nominating the army officer in the FIR.

The matter was also taken up by the Punjab cabinet during its meeting on Friday, which was attended by IGP Faisal Shahkar as well as other senior government officials and the provincial law minister.

An official privy to the developm­ent told Dawn the meeting discussed the serious issues pertaining to all the legal aspects of the registration of a case.

He said the huddle also discussed that a further delay in the registration of a case could spoil all efforts to secure evidence and punish the suspects involved in the armed attack on Mr Khan’s container in Wazirabad.

A man died, while 14 others, including Mr Khan and PTI leaders, were injured in the incident.

Editorial: Tragedy averted

Sharing the political dimensions of the issue, the source said CM Elahi was against the ‘logic’ of nominating the senior army officer in the case. The CM and PTI leaders held many meetings on the issue where the former attempted to convince them to drop the name of the army officer, the source added.

“The matter of filing an application with the police was under discussion between the PTI [ruling coalition partner] and the Punjab government,” he said.

He said the police chief conveyed to the government that the FIR had been the first authentic document about the commission of the cognisable of offence to start investigations.

Unfortunately, the investigation process in this respect has come to a grinding halt, despite the detention of three suspects, including the alleged shooter who was caught red-handed on the spot.

At the cabinet meeting, the IGP told other participants that the police had not received any application to register the FIR of an assassination attempt on former prime minister Imran Khan.

Regarding the formation of a Joint Investigation Team (JIT), the Punjab police were of the opinion it would be premature to form a JIT before even lodging the case.

The meeting remained inconclusive when it was apprised that CM Elahi and the PTI’s top leadership would discuss the matter in another round of meetings to be held late on Friday.

The PTI leaders, however, decided to hand over a copy of the application to the CM after taking a final decision in the meetings.

Responding to a question, the official said two other suspects Waqas and Sajid Butt who were arrested by the police on Friday believed to have sold the pistol and bullets to the prime suspect, Naveed Basheer, for Rs20,000. He said the key suspect was handed over to the Gujranwala Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) officers for further interrogation.

A senior police officer told Dawn that a set of blunders had been noticed by the law enforcement agencies while examining the footage of the crime scene recoded by a dozen of CCTV cameras. The biggest of the blunders was the security lapse that must be put on the priority in the starting phase of investigations into the incident, he said.

He said the Punjab police chief had taken up this issue with the provincial government in Friday’s meeting of the sub-cabinet committee, where he unveiled that Mr Khan’s private security had violated the advisory issued by the police.

Security advisory

In the security advisory, Gujrat police had suggested strongly to the Chief Security Officer (CSO) of Imran Khan to use bullet-proof rostrum, amid serious threats to his life in the public gathering. “The Gujranwala police had offered to the chief security officer that it can provide the bullet-proof rostrum for the security of Imran Khan at the container he was using in the long march,” the police officer said.

The matter was also highlighted by the police in some sub-cabinet meetings, he said, adding that the CSO had received the advisory and gave an ‘undertaking’ to the police that it would be installed at the container.

However, when the security advisory was violated, the police then suggested the security officers of Imran Khan to give access to the police on the container to take control of his security. Yet the security staff refused to allow the armed police to get into the container, where Mr Khan was physically interacting with everyone reaching there and this ‘blatant violation’ had irked the police high-ups.

In response to a question about the ‘other shooters’ involved in the armed attack on the container in Wazirabad, the police officer said it would be premature to say anything conclusive as the investigations were yet to be started.

He also pointed out several other legal flaws that could create troubles for the investigators in the court of law, saying that when Mr Khan got firearm injury he was first to be shifted to the nearby government hospital for a medico-legal case. The law doesn’t allow the victim to get ‘first’ treatment from a private health facility, because ‘incorrect or incomplete’ medico-legal reports may trigger a pause or delay in legal proceedings, he explained.

In Mr Khan’s case, he said, he was shifted from Wazirabad to Shaukat Khanum Cancer Hospital, Lahore, which was not authorised to issue an officially acceptable medico-legal certificate. He said there were reports that the Punjab government had sent a team of doctors from the public sector Jinnah Hospital Lahore to Shaukat Khanum to complete legal formalities.

Published in Dawn, November 5th, 2022

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