ISLAMABAD - Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said that it was ‘horrified’ over the recent incident in which 4 individuals were killed by an elite force of Punjab police in a ‘counter-terrorism’ operation.

In a statement, HRCP said that it appeared that what was initially termed an encounter with terrorists was the unnecessary, violent deaths of 4 people, including two parents and their teenage daughter.

“This incident is deeply troubling at several levels. The first is the alleged absence of any sign of due process. There is no question that violence perpetrated by terrorist organisations must be eliminated. However, ‘encounter killings’ that rapidly resurface as ‘extrajudicial murders’ – once more and more facts emerge and are verified – simply cannot continue to be argued as a necessary evil to uphold the rule of law”, the statement added.

“Second, this incident should initially have been brushed off as ‘collateral damage’ is a dire sign of how high our tolerance for impunity – as a state and society – has risen.

Third, the rate at which accounts of the incident have changed and the contradictions therein point to a distorted mechanism that betrays little coordination between the various branches of the state concerned. This needs to be rectified swiftly”, it said.

“The HRCP reiterates the need for investing heavily and sensibly in law enforcement agency reforms and training that will help minimise incidence of ‘encounter’ killings. Equally, all law enforcement personnel as well as the public, media and the people’s elected representatives must be sensitised to the state’s constitutional duty to ensure that no person should be deprived of life or liberty save in accordance with the law”, the statement asserted.

A key part of this implies understanding that the second clause of this fundamental right is not an excuse to widen the net to include ‘encounter’ killings.

It goes without saying that perpetrators of extrajudicial killings at the highest level must be punished under the law – and not protected – if this brutish trend is to be curtailed, the HRCP said.

“HRCP welcomes the Senate Standing Committee on Interior’s demand for a judicial probe into the incident, and hopes that this will be conducted transparently and its recommendations made public”, the statement concluded.