• Raid on serving army man’s home triggers chain of events, culminating in uniformed personnel ‘storming’ police stations
• Raiding party booked for violating SOPs, not producing detained men before magistrate
• Punjab IGP deplores ‘misinformation’ on social media; ISPR blames ‘vested interests’

BAHAWALNAGAR / LAHORE: The Punjab government and Pakistan Army on Friday pledged transparent investigations into a “face-off” between police and army personnel following the arrest of a serving officer, which took the social media by storm over the Eid holidays.

Four personnel of Madressah police, including the station house officer, have been booked and arrested on charges of keeping a man and his two sons, including an army official, in illegal detention, dereliction of duty and misuse of authority.

Another policeman, the Maroot police SHO, has been suspended and a departmental inquiry has been initiated against him for airing “misinformation” regarding the matter on social media.

The FIR lodged on the complaint of inspector Saifullah Hanif with Madressah police on April 10 said that former SI/SHO Rizwan Abbas, ASI Mohammad Naeem, constables Mohammad Abbas and Ali Raza arrested Mohammad Khalil and Mohammad Idrees and their father Mohammad Anwar, who were nominated in an FIR registered on April 8.

Instead of presenting them before a magistrate, the accused policemen kept them detained at the police station for more than 24 hours.

According to police sources, ASI Naeem and SHO Rizwan Abbas raided the house of Mohammad Anwar, a resident of Chak Sarkari, on April 7 for the arrest of his son Rafaqat over possession of an unlicensed pistol.

Meanwhile, Anwar’s son Mohammad Khaleel, an army official, along with his brother Idrees and other family members, took the two policemen hostage. Soon, a video of the police officers being taken hostage was uploaded on social media.

Meanwhile, a police team reached the spot, got the SHO and ASI freed and arrested Mohammad Anwar and his sons Khalil and Idrees. In process, police not only subjected the family members to severe torture but also ransacked the house. A video of this act also went viral.

Later, a case was registered against 23 family members of Mohammad Anwar by the Madressah police under sections 324, 353, 379, 506B, 342, 186, 148, 149 of PPC and the Punjab Arms Amendment Ordinance 2015.

Sources said as the Bahawalnagar district police officer came to know about the detention of army officer, his father and brother, he initiated an inquiry into the matter.

Finding them guilty, the DPO got a case registered against SHO Rizwan Abbas and ASI Muhammad Naem and constables Ali Raza and Muhammad Iqbal, had them arrested and handed them over to the A Division police.

The incident report released on April 10 said the accused policemen conducted the raid in violation of SOPs and did not inform their high-ups that the arrested included a serving army personnel. The report also confirmed police highhandedness during the raid.

Two senior police officials, requesting anonymity, told Dawn the issue had been settled before April 10 but a “malicious” campaign launched through social media did the damage.

Sharing with Dawn a couple of video clips in which the accused policemen could be seen badly injured, they said things took an ugly turn soon after Eid prayers, when almost 50 to 60 army personnel from the Bahawalnagar Brigade in around 10 vehicles stormed the A Division police station, took over the premises and severely tortured the four imprisoned cops.

Immediately after the incident, a few social media accounts uploaded pictures of police officials being tortured by army personnel.

Expressing his grief and anger over the incident, an inspector-ranked official said in a video statement that army personnel had beaten policemen like animals in front of prisoners and vandalised the police station. He said that the only fault of the policemen was that they had taken action against an army man, whose brothers were robbers. The official said that he was waiting for the Punjab chief minister to take notice of this incident.

In view of the sensitivity of the matter, the RPO immediately visited the Bahawalnagar police lines and met injured policemen and army soldiers at the DHQ Hospital.

Speaking to Dawn, Bahawalnagar DPO Naseebullah Khan said that social media users, including some police officials, had misinformed the public by wrongly highlighting the issue. “For spreading misinformation over the matter, the Maroot SHO has been suspended and a departmental inquiry has been initiated against him,” the DPO said.

An official press release said the Punjab government has formed a joint inquiry team.

“The Bahawalnagar incident is regrettable and Punjab Government has formed a Joint Inquiry Team comprising Home Department as well as state security agencies to ascertain facts and fix responsibility for this incident,” an official spokesperson said.

“To bring the matter to its logical conclusion and to ensure that those responsible for breach of laws and abuse of authority are held fully accountable without any discrimination, a Joint Investigation Team comprising army, intelligence and police authorities is being formed for impartial and independent investigation into the incident and apportion responsibility”, reads the statement of the ISPR.

IG’s statement

In his video statement released on Friday night, Punjab police chief Dr Usman Anwar condemned the negative campaign on social media.

He rejected the allegations of delayed response saying the Bahawalpur RPO had immediately reached Bahawalnagar and army command in the area.

The incident was taken out of context and exaggerated, he said, adding that many elements shared old videos connecting them with the Bahawalnagar incident and this negative propaganda led to the disappointment among the Punjab police force.

He further said that both the Punjab police and Army have also initiated actions at their departmental level to fix the responsibilities.

Baqir Sajjad Syed in Islamabad also contributed to this report

Published in Dawn, April 13th, 2024

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