Within the last about two months, the Rawalpindi police killed five people in four alleged encounters.
Haji Habibur Rehman, who retired as the inspector general of the Punjab police about two months back, had promised that a judicial inquiry would be conducted if the police killed anyone in an encounter across the province. However, so far no progress has been made in the judicial inquiries being carried out into the four latest encounters in the Rawalpindi city in which five people, including two brothers, were gunned down.
It is also not known at what stages the judicial inquiries are at the moment and when they would be completed. However, Mohammad Zubair, the assistant inspector general (AIG) of the police, who also holds the portfolio of the regional police officer Rawalpindi, claimed that 30 per cent work on the judicial inquiries related to the police encounters had been completed. But he did not give a specific timeframe for their completion.
On the night of Feb 14, 2013, Ghulam Sajjad and his brother Malik Jamshaid were shot dead by a raiding team comprising elite force personnel at their house in the Katarian locality on I.J. Principal Road. An elite force personnel was also killed in the incident. The police claimed that the raid was carried out on intelligence reports that some terror suspects were present in the house. However, so far the police have not been able to find any evidence to substantiate their claim that the two brothers were involved in any criminal activity.
The next day, the family and relatives of the two brothers held a protest demonstration and asked the chief justice of Pakistan to take suo motu notice of the incident and bring the responsible policemen to justice.
City Police Officer Azhar Hameed Khokhar had claimed that it was an “intelligence-led police raid” on a terror group. An elite force contingent trained by the military to handle terrorists, who were led by two army intelligence officers, conducted the operation.
But if the police version was to be believed that the elite force commando was killed by one of the two brothers, why the senior police officers like the CPO and the RPO avoided revealing to the media the circumstances that led to the raid. Their attitude made the encounter more suspicious and raised many questions about the trend of ‘encounter killings’ in the city. Different versions from low-ranking police officers also made the ‘encounter’ controversial.
It has been observed that in some of the street crimes, culprits used police uniform to get access to houses to rob the inmates of valuables and cash. Therefore, the raiding intelligence agency officials should have been accompanied by the local police. When SSP (operation) Israr Ahmed Abbasi was asked about the intelligence-led raid, he said: “We never know about raids carried out by intelligence officials because they simply demand the assistance of elite force which is under the command of CPO. They never disclose the details of the raids to the police.”
Surprisingly, the raiding police party neither searched the house nor had gathered intelligence before the raid. Besides, no illegal weapon or any objectionable item was recovered from the house.
This was not the first incident in which three lives were lost under unexplained circumstances. On Feb 7, 2013, a large number of relatives of Yasir Khan, 18, staged a sit-in at Fawara Chowk along with his dead body. Khan, a resident of Chaman Zar Colony, was killed in what the police said an ‘encounter’ the previous day.
However, the family of the deceased claimed that Khan, a rickshaw driver, had left his house along with his friend on a motorbike and came under police firing after they ignored a patrolling team on Tipu Road. Police claimed that the deceased was fleeing after snatching a motorbike from the Banni police area.
On January 23, Waheed Qureshi, wanted by the police in connection with the murder of six people in Gulistan Colony, was gunned down in an ‘encounter’ with the police. Two of his accomplices escaped.
Police claimed that the exchange of fire with the alleged murderer took place in the outskirts of Sadar Barooni in the early hours after the police received information that Waheed was hiding in an abandoned house there.
On Dec 9, 2012, a suspected robber, who was wanted by the police, was shot dead in an alleged encounter at Pindora. The suspect was identified as Zaheeruddin Babar alias Bashoo. Malik Rehmat, the father of the two deceased brothers, is waiting for the outcome of the judicial inquiry so that he could get justice. He says that if his sons were wanted by the police or any intelligence agency, they should have been taken to the police station or anywhere else for investigation.