LAHORE - Two incidents of firing at the Lahore residence of a top court judge were reported on Sunday, prompting widespread condemnation and launch of investigation.

Justice Ijazul Ahsan’s Model Town house was targeted twice – first at 4:30am and then 9am, according to a Supreme Court spokesperson.

No casualties came in the attacks; however, paramilitary troops were deployed following the reported gunfire to beef up security.

Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Saqib Nisar and some other SC judges arrived at the residence of their fellow judge after the incident.

The CJP summoned Punjab police chief Arif Nawaz Khan. The chief justice “is personally overseeing the situation”, the apex court PRO said.

Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif also took notice of the incident and directed the Punjab inspector general to bring the culprits to book.

A Punjab government spokesman condemned the incident in strong words. Malik Ahmad Khan said that it was a “highly condemnable” incident and the authorities were trying their best to arrest the attackers.

Initial probe and JIT

A criminal case under section 324/427 of the PPC and Section 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act was registered with the Model Town police.

A high-powered police team conducted initial inquiry and later a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) was formed to thoroughly probe the incident.

The police team comprised DIG (Investigation) Chaudhry Sultan Ahmad, SSP Ghulam Mubashir Maiken, CIA SP Nadeem Abbas, and SP (Investigation, Model Town) Shakir Ahmad Shahid. The investigators recorded statements of the police guards deputed there for security and some residents of the area.

The report of preliminary police investigation was issued around 10:45pm. According to it, Shift In-Charge Pakistan Rangers VIP Venue Naik Abdur Razzaq reported that a stray bullet hit the upper collar of the main gate of a house in H Block Model Town in Lahore.

“Punjab Forensic Science Agency (PFSA) Crime Scene Unit was called to process the incident to analyze it forensically,” the report said. “They collected the evidence (data, photographs, bullet slug).”

The incident’s report shall be furnished on Monday (today), said the Forensic Scientist Crime Scene Investigator Makhdoom Saad.

As per the preliminary spatial observations by Crime Scene Unit (CSU), the bullet could be stray and on the final stage of its parabolic trajectory fired from a distance, said the report. A search operation has been conducted on the probable direction of the bullet trajectory, it added.

A detailed forensic report will be provided by the Fire Arms and Tool Marks (FATM) Department of PFSA after completing the analysis of the submitted evidence.

As for the JIT, it is being headed by Additional IG Muhammad Tahir and includes DIG Investigation Sultan Chaudhry and representatives of the Military Intelligence (MI), Inter-Services Intelligence (IS), and Intelligence Bureau (IB), said the spokesperson of the Punjab Government. Officers of the Special Branch and Forensics Agency will also be part of the team.

Who is Justice Ijaz

Justice Ijazul Ahsan was part of the five-member Panamagate bench that last year delivered the verdict which led to the disqualification of then prime minister Nawaz Sharif.

He is also the monitoring judge and has been given the responsibility to supervise the implementation of the Panamagate case verdict. Therefore, he is now overseeing the proceedings of the corruption case filed by the National Accountability Bureau in the accountability court against the Sharif family members and ex-finance minister Ishaq Dar.

Justice Ijaz was also part of the three-judge bench that heard 17 petitions against the controversial Elections Act 2017 and ruled that an individual disqualified under Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution cannot serve as head of a political party – a verdict that made Nawaz lose his position as the PML-N president.

Justice Ijaz, along with the CJP and some other Supreme Court judges, is currently in the provincial capital hearing several cases at the apex court’s Lahore registry.

Environment of mistrust

The judge’s house is located very close to the residence of the Punjab chief minister and his son MNA Hamza Shehbaz, where there is visible police presence throughout the day.

As the news about the firing at Justice Ijaz’s house got wind, wild speculations about it started to emerge. The opposition Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf went to the extent of outrightly blaming the PML-N leadership for the incident.

It was in this environment of confusion and suspicion that the personal staff officer (PSO) to the Punjab CM, who arrived at Justice Ijaz’s residence later in the day, was not allowed to meet the top court judge by the SC administration.

This was probably because of this uncertainty that despite police presence, additional Rangers personnel reached the site after the incident and kept patrolling the area.

 

 

Stray bullets or targeted firing?

Investigators were trying to determine the distance and location from where the bullets were fired, reportedly from a 9mm pistol. Officials were also examining footage taken from the CCTV cameras installed in the nearby streets.

One bullet, recovered from outside the house, had hit the main gate. Another bullet struck the floor of the house after hitting the kitchen’s window.

Some media outlets claimed that it were the stray bullets that had landed at the judge’s house. Their reports suggested the police guards deployed outside the residence of the judge could not hear sound of the fire.

One media channel went a step further in claiming that even the neighbours did not recall hearing gunshots. It also claimed that police believed the shots were fired from roofs of surrounding houses and not the street in front of the house.

But this was in contradiction of what the FIR revealed.

The police registered the FIR on the complaint of Constable Muhammad Asif, one of the police guards deployed outside the house for security. The guard said that as he heard the sound of the fire, he came out of the bunker where he was on duty along with an official of Punjab Rangers.”

According to the complainant, the first bullet fell on the road after hitting the main gate of house late on Saturday night. The bullet also left a visible mark on the gate. Heavy police contingents reached the spot soon after the firing, the guard narrated. Forensic experts were also called to examine the crime scene.

“(Hours later) when the forensic team left the site after collecting evidences, another bullet hit the floor in the open sky at about 9am. I went toward that place where I saw a bullet,” he added. The constable went on to say, “I am confident that unknown gunmen fired the bullets to cause damage and to harass the respectable residents of the house (112/H-II).”

A senior police officer told The Nation that “forensic experts are engaged” to find out what actually had happened there. Requesting anonymity, he said experts were handed over the bullets casings for forensic analysis.

“And, they (forensic experts) would determine if these were just stray bullets or some criminals deliberately attacked the house.”

A police investigator however told this reporter that the incidents of stray bullets hitting house or high-rise structures in the town are not rare. Requesting anonymity, he said that many people resort to aerial fining to celebrate weddings or other events particularly on the weekends.

In August, a bullet had hit the office of Chairman Punjab Information and Technology Board (Dr Umar Saif in the same locality. No one had been hurt in the incident as it was an off-day.

Reportedly, the bullet had pierced through the windowpane of an office adjacent to Chairman’s office, and then passed through the glass-wall of Dr Saif’s office before hitting to his chair.

 

 

Panic after bullets fired at SC judge’s house