ISLAMABAD: A Senate panel on Wednesday came down hard on Punjab and Islamabad police for allegedly using excessive force against Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) workers in Lahore and Islamabad respectively.

Senate Standing Committee on Interior, which met here at the Parliament House with PTI Senator Mohsin Aziz in the chair said that police used brutal force against PTI workers in Zaman Park area and in Islamabad.

The committee also played a short documentary to show torture by police against PTI workers in Lahore and Islamabad outside Judicial Complex during the court appearance of PTI chief Imran Khan on March 18.

On the other hand, during the meeting, representatives of Inspector General of Police Punjab and IG Islamabad Dr Akbar Nasir Khan told the committee that police did not start action against PTI workers rather, PTI activists attacked the police force.

Police say workers attacked them; SC asked to take suo motu notice of Barkhan tragedy

The IG Islamabad told the committee that only four first information reports (FIRs) have been registered in Islamabad in connection with the Toshakhana case and subsequent issues.

However, PTI Senator Ejaz Ahmad Chaudhry said that 15 FIRs were registered against Imran Khan in Islamabad.

Earlier, the committee discussed the police operation in Zaman Park on March 14 and got a briefing from a representative of Punjab police. Committee members – Senators Walid Iqbal, Saifullah Abro, Faisal Saleem Rahman and Ejaz Chaudhry said that police used brutal force against unarmed PTI workers in Lahore, which is inhumane.

Officers of Punjab police told the committee that PTI activists started attacking police and also used petrol bombs.

Responding to this, the committee members said that police resorted to baton charge and even destroyed vehicles of PTI supporters. Police officials said that their 65 police personnel received injuries.

Meanwhile, Punjab police also showed a video during the committee meeting, stating that PTI worker Ali Bilal alias Zille Shah was not killed by police rather he died in a road accident.

In the video, Zille Shah along with some other workers of PTI, who were arrested outside of Zaman Park, was seen disembarking from the van.

According to police, a 4x4 vehicle hit Zille Shah and later, he was shifted to the hospital in the same vehicle.

Senator Walid Iqbal said that all circumstantial evidence shows that Zille Shah was killed due to torture of police and not by road accident. He said that police had allegedly been making cover up stories.

During the meeting, he also read out Dawn’s editorial titled Impartial arbiter? saying that this editorial had pointed out many important things and was an eye-opener.

Barkhan tragedy

Earlier, the committee directed Balochistan police to add clauses related to kidnapping in the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) against provincial minister Abdul Rehman Khetran, his sons and others involved in the Barkhan tragedy.

The committee was briefed by Inspector General of Police Balochistan Abdul Khalique Sheikh and a deputy inspector general of police about the said incident and subsequent investigation.

The IGP told the committee that police without any political interference has been conducting investigation into the case on merit.

He said that police, in the FIR, had nominated Rehman Khetran, his sons and nephew as murderers and for habeas corpus.

Last month, reportedly, recovery of bodies of a woman and two young boys from a well in the Barkhan area exposed police’s efficiency.

According to the victim’s husband Khan Mohammad Marri, his wife Granaz and his two sons including a minor were allegedly kept in the private jail of the said provincial minister for the last four years.

Police said that three bodies had gunshot wounds in the head and showed signs of torture.

However, in the committee meeting, the IG police said that the children in question, were not kidnapped but their movement was forcefully curtailed by the said persons.

To this, the committee members said that this is something unacceptable as even if the police’s version was true then too, keeping anyone’s movement curtailed also fell in the category of kidnapping, therefore, clauses of kidnapping should also be added in the FIR.

When pressed by committee members, the IG Balochistan accepted that through preventive measures, the incident could have been avoided.

The committee members including Senator Mushtaq Ahmed, Saifullah Abro and others demanded that clauses related to kidnapping and ATA should be added in the FIR. The committee also directed the IG to take action against the DPO and other police officials concerned.

During the meeting, the family members of the said family also expressed their views saying that because of fear, they have been living in Karachi.

The committee directed the Balochistan administration to write a letter to the chief secretary Sindh to provide security to the family in Karachi.

Later on, JI Senator Mushtaq Ahmed along with the family, held a press conference in Islamabad and demanded the Supreme Court to take suo motu notice on the Barkhan tragedy.

Published in Dawn, March 30th, 2023

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