LAHORE - The whole CTD chain of command relevant to the Sahiwal tragedy has been removed on the orders of Punjab Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar in light of the initial JIT report presented on Tuesday.

The Joint Investigation Team (JIT) has declared Khalil and his family members innocent and held the CTD officials responsible for their murder. The team however sought more time to investigate the status of Zeeshan – who the CTD still claims was a ‘terrorist’.

Those removed and suspended include the head of the Punjab’s counterterrorism department (additional IG), a DIG, an SSP and a DSP of CTD.

Moreover, at least five CTD officials have been charged for the murder of Khalil, his wife and their daughter on a highway on Saturday near Qadirabad.

Law Minister Raja Basharat, who towing the CTD line had earlier declared all the victims as terrorists, took a U-turn yesterday by clearing the Khalil family of terrorism charges

Talking to the media after JIT’s presentation of report to a meeting chaired by the CM, he however insisted that Zeeshan was an ISIS terrorist, saying that details about him would be shared with the journalists on Wednesday in an in-camera briefing.

The minister’s fresh statement, which again seems to be the CTD version, has made the case more mysterious than bringing any clarity to the situation.

Some experts saw it as another effort by the unseen hands to manoeuvre things, as keeping the ‘anti-terror operation’ angle relevant to the story may ultimately provide enough room to save many skins.

Anomalies in case

There are a number of things that have raised serious doubts over the way the police ‘operation’ was conducted and the manner in which the case was handled after the witness accounts and videos of the deadly shooting made it clear that something terribly wrong has happened.

Two FIRs have been filed of the incident, which in itself is an illegality. Both these FIRs are highly contradictory. The exact number and identity of the officials who carried out the murders remain unknown. The crime scene had been washed before the JIT visited it.

If it really was an anti-terror operation then what was the exact task of the team which conducted it? Were they supposed to capture the ‘terrorists’ or they had been ordered to finish them on the spot?

Then, there is shady killing of two alleged terrorists in Gujranwala at the night of the same day and their linking to the Sahiwal tragedy victims by the CTD - at a time when their Qadirabad operation claims had begin to get exposed.

To top it all, the responsible people like the law minster are issuing irresponsible statements. There seems to be a conscious effort to twist and mingle the facts with fiction so much so that everything becomes obscure.

As far the number of police officials who conducted the ‘operation’, normally, dozens of police commandoes take part in such anti-terrorist operations.

But they were only three according the first FIR, filed by the CTD. According to the second FIR, registered on the complaint of Khalil’s brother, Jalil, unknown number of unnamed CTD officials riding an Elite Police Force vehicle carried out the shooting.

Now, officials claim that five cops have been named in the FIR. But a police official told The Nation on Tuesday that six CTD personnel have been detained and are being questioned in connection with the deadly shooting.

In a vedio footage shot by a citizen, three to four policemen can be seen searching an 800-CC white-colour car. Later, they could also be seen shifting bodies and bags onto the police van from the car.

Another key question is that if the CTD had discovered any suicide jackets, hand grenades, and ammunition from the car, as they claimed, why they did not record the crime scene. No recovery of weapons has emerged in any of the videos of the scene taken by the citizens.





JIT visit to crime scene

Several eyewitnesses described the shooting incident as “fake encounter” and said the victims were unarmed who died instantly inside the car on the national highway last week.

The JIT, which was tasked to complete the probe and fix the responsibility within three days so the culprits could be given “exemplary punishment”, visited the crime scene in Sahiwal district on Tuesday to collect evidence and recorded statements of at least five witnesses.

According to an eyewitness account, police commandos opened fire on the moving car. As the car stopped after hitting fence along the highway, police pulled out three children and again started firing with assault rifles.

An official said all JIT members visited the crime scene and expressed their displeasure since it was not preserved by police. Officials believe the crime scene was washed by law enforcement personnel.



CM meeting

Punjab Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar presided over a high-level meeting at his office here on Tuesday in which initial report of the JIT about Sahiwal incident was presented.

Head of JIT Additional IG Ijaz Shah gave a briefing about the report. According to the initial report, the CTD officers taking part in the operation have been held responsible for the murder of Khalil, his wife and the daughter.

In the light of the report, it has been decided to take action against Additional IG (Operation) Punjab, Additional IG (CTD) Punjab, DIG (CTD), SSP (CTD), DSP (CTD) Sahiwal and the officers involved in the operation.

On the directions of the chief minister, Additional IG (Ops) Punjab has been removed from his post and has been directed to report back to the federal government.

Additional IG (CTD) has been removed from his post with immediate effect and DIG (CTD) has also been removed from his post and directed to report to the federal government.

SSP (CTD) and DSP (CTD) Sahiwal Region have also been suspended. It has been directed that five CTD officers, involved in the encounter, should be challaned and their case should be forwarded to the anti-terrorism court.

In the initial report, the JIT has sought more time for further investigations and collection of evidence about Zeeshan.

Chief Minister Usman Buzdar said that in accordance with the directions of Prime Minister Imran Khan and the assurance made earlier, Punjab government had fulfilled its promise of holding transparent and speedy investigations with regard to Sahiwal incident.

He said case has been registered against the CTD officers who conducted the operation and they were under the custody of police.

The chief minister also observed that was a test case and Punjab government will provide justice to the bereaved family by making it an example.

Senior Minister Abdul Aleem Khan, Law Minister Raja Basharat, Chief Secretary, ACS (Home), IG Police and high-officials of concerned agencies attended the meeting.

Talking to the media after the meeting, law minister said that since the JIT report has held the CTD officials responsible for the murder of Khalil and his family members, the head of CTD, Additional IG, Rai Tahir has been removed from his position while the relevant DIG has been placed under suspension.

Earlier, Punjab Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar postponed his engagements due to Sahiwal incident and presided over a meeting relating to law and order on Tuesday.

He said that nation was saddened over the tragic incident that occurred in Sahiwal and the pain and suffering of innocent children cannot be described in words.

The CM said Punjab government will not let the children of deceased Khalil alone and all the sympathies of the Punjab government were with the bereaved family. He further stated that state will leave no stone unturned to look after this family.

“Those who are responsible for this cruelty will not evade punishment; they will be brought in a court of law and the whole nation will witness justice being done”, he concluded.



Victims details

Four persons including a teenage girl and her parents died inside instantly. The family members were going to a village in Buerawala when they were intercepted by CTD police near Qadirabad in Sahiwal.

Khalil, 43, his wife Nabeela, 37, daughter Areeba, 13, and friend Zeeshan 36, were shot and killed inside the car.

Nine-year-old Muhammad Umair and seven-year-old Jaazba sustained minor injuries. Only, five-year-old Muneeba remained hurt.

Autopsy reports reveal the victims were shot multiple times from a close range with assault rifles. Khalil was shot 13 times in his chest and head, his wife Nabeela sustained four bullets, daughter Areeba received six bullets, and friend Zeeshan was found dead on the driving seat with 10 bullets.