LAHORE - Policemen deliberately shot and killed two schoolboys in Faisalabad last week.
Following the shootout, Punjab Police officers asserted that both the boys were robbers and they were killed in an armed encounter with on-duty policemen at a checkpoint on a busy road. Not enough, the police registered a criminal case against the schoolboys and also claimed that they had seized firearms from their possession.
Hours later, the entire police version proved baseless and concocted. Those who were shot dead by police and private gunmen were matriculation students. The latest police fake shooting took place in Millat Town police precincts late Wednesday.
The residents of Muslim Town, Usman and Arslan had no criminal history. Also, both the friends were unarmed. They, riding a motorcycle, were going to a nearby food outlet when they came under fire. They died on the spot because police pumped several bullets into their bodies.
Actually, teenage motorcyclists frequently play hide and seek with the police. Routinely, they are stopped at police pickets in the name of security search. They are deprived of their cash and other belongings if they failed to produce registration books or driving licenses. In many cases, the boys prefer to dodge policemen instead of being robbed by them. The same episode was repeated in the Faisalabad district. The police first killed innocent boys who tried to dodge some policemen. Then, the police department declared that the boys were criminals and they were killed during chase because they opened fire on cops.
The police version proved unfounded and totally baseless within a few hours. The merciless killings sparked anti-police protests as relatives of the victims and villagers took to street to condemn the latest “fake” police encounter. Faisalabad City Police Officer Ashfaq Ahmed Khan constituted a five-member committee to investigate the killings. Reportedly, SSP (Operations) Sultan Haider was convener of the committee while SSP (investigation) Syed Nadeem, Madina Town SP Asif Amin, SP (legal) Farhat Abbas and DSP Nishat Abad Qaiser Musthaq were nominated as members of the committee. The committee has been tasked to investigate the deaths and send back its findings to the city police officer at the earliest.
Meanwhile, the double-murder case was registered against three policemen and two private persons. Those nominated in the double murder included ASI Javed Akhtar, Head Constable Asghar Ali, Constable Falak Sher, and Faisal (ex-policemen) and Waqas (volunteer).
Sources at the central police office say they believe the policemen were heavily drunk when they opened fire on the young boys. An official familiar with the development said the private persons are not allowed to perform security duties at the checkpoints.
“We are also investigating what the private men were doing at the police picket. Who deployed them for security checking along with the policemen and what kind of firearms they were carrying at the time of the incident?” an official explained when contacted. When asked whether the police and private gunmen were drunk when they opened fire on the schoolboys the official said, “Everything is being investigated thoroughly.”
The police registered a double murder case against the policemen and private gunmen on the complaint a relative of the victims. However, no arrest was made till late Sunday. It was also learnt that the accused policemen and their accomplices were advised by local police to go underground to avoid arrests.
Earlier, the police had registered an encounter case against the boys under sections 186, 324, 365 of the PPC and 13/20/65. As per police claims, a police team signalled the boys to stop for checking near Kalash Road but they tried to flee on their motorcycle.
During a chase, the suspects opened fire on police. “The police retaliated and killed the suspects,” the FIR claimed. Cops also seized two pistols and bullets from the crime scene.
Most interestingly, no policeman was hurt during the ‘crossfire’ which, according to the police claims, continued for a considerable time. The bullet riddled bodies were sent to the morgue for autopsy amid tight police security.
One of the deceased boys was the son a police official. Top police officers managed to end the protests by convincing the poor father that the killers would be brought to justice. However, the Faisalabad police have failed to make any arrest so far in connection with the double-murder incident in which two schoolboys were killed by police and private gunmen.
Although the ruthless killings made headlines in the national media yet the provincial government failed to take serious notice of the incident.
Fake police encounters or extrajudicial killings are quite common in this police state. According to the police data, at least 1,325 suspected criminals were shot and killed by police across the Punjab province from 2014 to 2017. The shootings were staged and most of those killed in such ‘encounters’ were suspected criminals. Many suspects were killed by police after weeks-long investigations.
The practice of extrajudicial killings, also dubbed here as police encounters, is quite common in this crime-infested Punjab province. At least 269 alleged criminals were killed in 239 “police encounters” last year across the Punjab province. In 2016, the police had killed 340 alleged criminals in 291 encounters.
More than 450 suspects were shot dead by police during at least 359 shootouts across the province in 2015. Police sources describe 2015 as the year of “police encounters” in the history of the Punjab Police.
The incidents of extrajudicial killings dropped drastically in Punjab during the first six months of this year, as compared to the corresponding period of 2017. The police reported at least 54 ‘armed encounters’ with criminals during the first six months of this year, while during the same period last year the police had registered at least 129 such incidents.
The police killed at least 43 alleged criminals in ‘armed encounters’ which took place in different parts of the province during the first six months of this year as compared to 134 criminals killed in similar shootouts with police during the corresponding period of 2017.
Apparently, police halted the practice of “staged shootings” in Punjab after the country’s top court took strong notice of the murder of Naqeeb Ullah Mahsud, a young man who was killed in a fake police encounter early this year in Karachi.
In February, Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Mian Saqib Nisar has taken a suo motu notice of extrajudicial killings in Punjab. The chief justice had ordered the Inspector General of Police to submit a report within a week on the total encounters conducted in the province and the people killed in the last year. However, despite strict warnings by the top court and the human rights activists, the police are killing innocent people in fake encounters with impunity.