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Bugti incident being politicised

March 10, 2012

ISLAMABAD, March 10: After 36 hours in custody, the detained elite force personnel who had been escorting Shahzain Bugti were released on Friday from the court on police request.

Interestingly, the police claimed that it found no evidence of the elite personnel’s culpability, but it insisted that charges against Bugti for criminal intimidation and theft would remain.

The four personnel of Punjab Elite Force were taken into custody after they were identified by two local television reporters for thrashing and detaining them in Serena Hotel on March 8 when they were trying to cover a private meeting between the president of Balochistan chapter of Jamhoori Watan Party and US Embassy’s political consular in Islamabad Jonathan Pratt.

On Saturday, the police told the judicator of the civil court that they had found no evidence incriminating the four detained police personnel and requested that they be discharged.

A policeman told Dawn on condition of anonymity: “The four personnel did not snatch mobiles from the journalists or thrashed them or were involved in their detention. According to the CCTV footage of the hotel, they were not carrying weapons and neither were they involved in the acts of manhandling the media personnel.”

He went on to add: “The statements of the hotel staff prove their innocence as well.”

Rumours abound that the issue is being politicised at the behest of the government but no one is willing to come on record for that. This conjecture is buttressed by the fact that even though the police stated that at the time of the incident Mr Bugti was accompanied by his political agent “Raja” and other Baloch men along with 25 security personnel of the Punjab Elite Force, no one knows if any member of the heavy contingent has been charged.

The only one facing the music is Mr Bugti, who had left the capital city with other members of his security escort by Friday afternoon when the cases were registered under sections 379 and 506 of Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) on the complaint of Mohammad Shahid Ali Rana of a private channel  When Dawn contacted a senior officer to know about the investigation and other formalities of the case, including the arrest of Mr Bugti, he replied on request of anonymity: “You should be well aware of such cases and the real intentions behind them.”

Indeed, right after the brawl, the supervisory officers of the Secretariat police, the city administration and media representatives made conciliatory efforts to settle the issue and negotiated with Mr Bugti in the hotel till late night but remained unsuccessful. Around the same time, Interior Minister Rehman Malik who had rushed to the spot and asked the Inspector General of Police to take action against the people responsible and register a case against them.

Some claim that the failure could be due to the directive issued by the ministry in the midst of these talks, but there was no way of ascertaining this.