LAHORE - No judicial commission will be constituted to probe into the deadly police shooting in Sahiwal district as the joint investigation team has accelerated working to conclude inquest before the 30-days deadline.

An official familiar with the development last night told The Nation that the Punjab government had straightforwardly rejected the demand of the Opposition parties including PML-N and PPP for referring the case to the judicial commission.

The move comes after week-long deliberations between some members of victim families and representatives of the provincial authorities. Also, relatives of victims and senior government officials held hours-long meeting in Lahore on Monday to overcome “trust deficit.”

According to insiders, the victim families have agreed to appear before the JIT after they were given “assurances” of justice by government officials. Earlier, relatives of the victims had rejected the formation of JIT constituted by the provincial government to investigate a botched raid by counter-terror operatives on the national highways, last month. They had also refused to appear before the JIT members and insisted the government to form a judicial commission for fail trail.

“(The) JIT has been asked (by provincial authorities) to go ahead and complete the probe within a month,” the official said, requesting anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to media on the subject.

“They (JIT) are investigating both the cases (registered with CTD and local police respectively) of the same incident,” he said.

A close relative of the victim family while talking to reporters after meeting the government representatives said that they would meet the Head of the JIT on Tuesday (today) to get their statements recorded.

Flanked by Punjab Chief Minister’s spokesperson Dr Shahbaz Gill, Muhammad Jalil (brother of deceased Muhammad Khalil) said that the government had given them assurance that justice would be provided to the victims. “We have placed all our reservations before the government officials. We shall see if they can be trusted. But, we are going to appear before JIT Head tomorrow and we shall get our statements recorded,” he said. All video-clips are being made part of the investigation report, Jalil said. He further said that JIT had called his nine-year-old nephew to identify the shooters at the identification parade but it is impossible for him to recognize the policemen since he is still terrified and shocked.

Official sources said that Punjab Additional-IG Ijaz Hussain Shah, PTI leader Ijaz Chaudhry, and Dr Ijaz Gill held a series of negotiations with relatives of the victims during the meeting on Monday. They successfully managed to ‘convince’ the complainant to withdraw the demand for judicial commission.

On the other hand, a senior police officer Monday told reporters in Lahore that forensic experts were also engaged to examine the vehicles of police and the victims. During an in-camera briefing at the central police office, the DIG-rank officer said that the JIT had asked the administration of a nearby Toll-Plaza to provide them CCTV footage of the crime scene. “The JIT has also seized digital video recorders installed at the CTD office as part of the investigation,” the officer said. “The investigation is underway and the investigation report would be submitted before the court very soon.”

Responding to a question, the police official categorically said that the JIT “so far has failed to establish any link between the militants and the victims.” He said that the investigators would also collect details about the visit of the victim to Burewala village. “All videos, important documents, and all other evidences will be made part of the official record,” he said. The suicide jackets and hand grenades recovered by police from the crime scene are sent to the Punjab Forensic Science Agency to examination, he added.

In another development related to the Sahiwal tragedy, the Lahore High Court on Monday ordered the head of the JIT to investigate the incident on merit by attaching all documents and evidences with the record of the case. The court also asked the federal government to explain what steps had been taken by the government on the appeal of the victim families for constitutions of a judicial commission.

Last week, the postmortem report revealed that all the four victims were shot multiple times from a close range with assault rifles. A Lahore-based grocery store owner Khalil, 43, his wife Nabeela, 37, daughter Areeba, 13, and friend Zeeshan, 36, were killed by CTD police during a so-called security operation in the Sahiwal district on January 19. They were going to Buerawala village to attend a wedding party when they were intercepted by CTD police near Qadirabad in Sahiwal.

Two separate FIRs of the same incident have been registered with Lahore CTD police and Sahiwal district police respectively. The victims were mentioned as martyrs in the FIR registered against CTD officials with the local police. However, they were stated “terrorists” in the FIR registered with CTD police against them. 

A CTD spokesperson last month had described Zeeshan as an active member of the ISIS in Punjab and said that it was an intelligence-based operation against terrorists linked to DAESH. He went on to say that three family members along with a friend were killed by the firing of their own accomplices.

The situation took a new twist when one of the survivors refuted CTD claims while narrating the firing incident in a video that went viral on the social media several hours after the tragedy. Nine-year-old Muhammad Umair said his teenage sister had also survived the first gunfire. He said the policemen removed four children from the vehicle after initial firing on the car. The police pushed back the girl into the car and again started firing, recalled the child who narrowly survived the shooting along with two minor siblings.

According to officials, six personnel of the counterterrorism department were detained for questioning by police following the incident. They were sent to jail by a local court on Monday.

The provincial government had constituted the JIT to fully investigate the incident as PM Imran Khan took notice of the latest police shooting and pledged that those found guilty would be give “exemplary punishment.”