The Sahiwal shootout incident could have served as a teaching moment for the Punjab authorities. The incident, which involved an innocent man, his wife and teenage daughter becoming collateral damage in a counter-terrorism operation, caused outrage among the public and highlighted conversation around the topics of police brutality, presumption of innocence in terrorism cases and accountability in shootouts gone wrong. The national attention over the case caused the Punjab Government to respond promptly and appoint a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) to investigate the incident to find out who was responsible for the shooting for four innocent people.

Yet the report which was released last week leaves much to be desired- the investigation lacks depth and analysis on the institutional problems that may have led to the shootout. Instead the report holds only six officers of the Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) responsible, deeming that no high ranking official ordered them to carry out the operation. Considering that the first police report named 16 officers, it is difficult not to see a scape-goating of the lower officials who had been present at the shootings, while neglecting accountability of the institutional problems the CTD holds.

The family of Mohammad Khalil, the innocent man shot and killed, has expressed their disapproval with the JIT findings, complaining that it comprises of the same organisations involved in the killing. Despite the national outcry and the attention this case has received, there is an unfortunate possibility that this tragedy will get buried without the family of the victim getting due accountability, and it is hoped that the judiciary will respond aptly to whatever legal route that the victims take to get around the JIT.

Unsatisfactory it may be, the JIT report had one alarming finding which has alerted the federal authorities. The JIT report declared that Dolphin Force official Ehtisham, the brother of one of the men shot dead, may be a suspect of terrorism and ought to be included in the Fourth Schedule. In response, a departmental proceeding has been launched to keep a watchful eye over the aforementioned Dolphin Force official, who is suspected of having contacts with Islamic State (IS) officials.

The JIT and the subsequent departmental investigation thus is a mixed bag- while it is reassuring that the IS connection was caught and is being looked over by the agencies, the matter of professionalism in policing is still an issue which even the outrage over this case could not solve.