KARACHI, June 9: An investigation into the shooting death of a youngster by Rangers officials in a public park faltered before it could even get under way on Thursday, with the police authorities saying that they were still waiting for a nod from the paramilitary force to arrest the personnel booked for murder.
The family of the young victim, members of civil society and legal experts raised questions over the way the case was being handled and pinned little hope on the investigation.
In the early hours of Thursday, the Boat Basin police registered a case (FIR 227/2011) under Sections 302 (premeditated murder) and 34 (common intention) of the Pakistan Penal Code against Sindh Rangers constables Mohammad Afzal and Shahid Zafar on a complaint of the victim’s elder brother, Saalik Shah, a journalist associated with Samaa TV.
However, hours after the two personnel had been booked, the police authorities supervising the investigation into Sarfaraz Shah’s murder said senior officials of Sindh Rangers had told them that both soldiers were in their custody and would be handed over to them only after a departmental inquiry.
“Since Sindh Rangers is a paramilitary institution, there is some internal process or inquiry going on,” said DIG Investigation Iftikhar Tarar.
“It may hardly take a week and then they might be handed over to the police for further investigations. In the meantime we are gathering more evidence and facts related to the case.”
Similar views were expressed by a spokesman for Sindh Rangers, though he did not say when the internal inquiry would be completed. He claimed that the police “would have access to keep their investigations simultaneously”.
“A high-level inquiry board has been set up by the Rangers DG headed by a brigadier rank officer. Once they complete the inquiry, the suspects would be handed over to the police,” the official said.
Earlier, Rangers DG Major-General Ejaz Chaudary speaking to a select group of journalists offered his condolences to the victim’s family and admitted “sheer negligence” on the part of his soldiers.
However, he did not explain the reasons for not handing over the suspects to the police for a proper investigation.
“I would request you to wait to get our inquiry completed. Once it’s over, every fact would be shared with you and the people,” he told reporters of the electronic media.
He said that since Rangers had the responsibility of maintaining peace in the city, they played their due role in their line of duty and “always open fire in self-defence”.
He added that this particular incident showed negligence on the part of the six soldiers, who were now under arrest and facing inquiry.
Instead of answering several questions surrounding the brutal act, the briefing of the Rangers DG complicated the situation further with new questions being raised in the media.
The most common of all is about the fewer soldiers named in the FIR despite the fact that the DG himself mentioned six soldiers in relation to this particular incident.
The police authorities had an answer, though without a solid argument.
“Nomination of the suspects in the FIR is not a serious issue. More names can be incorporated in the document once the process starts and facts begin to unfold,” asserted DIG Investigations Tarar.
However, the victim’s elder brother, Saalik Shah who lodged the FIR, wondered the police logic.
“The entire episode took a U-turn only after the footage was broadcast by news channels. Before that we were pleading for justice but in vain.
“I had lodged a complaint against all Rangers officials present there and later seen in the footage but don’t know why most of them were not booked,” he said.
President of the Supreme Court Bar Association Asma Jehangir wondered how Sindh Rangers could hold a parallel inquiry.
“The incident did not occur during a state of war. Neither was it the result of any internal dispute of the Rangers. A young civilian was brutally murdered at a civilian and public place, which can only be prosecuted under the PPC and investigated by the local police,” she said.
She doubted there would be any fair inquiry into the incident that could lead to justice for Sarfaraz’s family. Such acts could be challenged in any court of law, she said.
The same opinion was expressed by retired Justice Nasir Aslam Zahid. He said it did not sound sensible on the part of Rangers to investigate the case that involved paramilitary soldiers victimising a civilian.
“I don’t know what their (Sindh Rangers) rules say, but it seems plain that it is not that only their men were involved in an act but there is also a question of the killing of a civilian at a civilian place that I think should be investigated by the police under the defined laws and prosecuted in a civilian court,” he said.