LAHORE - Former police inspector Abid Hussain Qureshi alias Boxer, who has been on the run for 10 years, appeared before a local court in Lahore last week.
Boxer is wanted to the Punjab Police in several cases of murder, attempted murder, land grab and fraud. In 2008, he had fled abroad after he was named in the murder case of a retired military officer and his wife in Lahore.
The court last week granted him pre-arrest bail till August 4. At least 10 criminal cases are registered against the notorious policeman. The court also ordered the police not to arrest the accused. The former police official later told reporters in Lahore that he would “blow the lid off many secrets.” Boxer admits killing many people in staged shootings on the behest of the rulers.
Reportedly, the murder case of Brigadier Naseem Ashraf registered with the Qila Gujjar Singh police in 2008 had forced boxer to flee the country. Ashraf’s wife had accused the former inspector of killing her husband. She alleged that Boxer had wanted to grab a cinema owned by the retired brigadier in 2008. The widow, who was also complainant in the murder case of her husband, later died under mysterious circumstances. Her death raised suspicions that she was also murdered at the behest of the Boxer, who fled abroad soon after her killing.
Boxer did not return to face the cases during the last two terms of former Punjab chief minister Mian Shehbaz Sharif (from 2008 to 2013 and 2013 to 2018). However, he showed up in the court last week following the caretaker government took over the Punjab province.
During the last 10 years, Boxer had been living in South Africa, UAE and other states. But, on different occasion, he had appeared in Pakistani TV talk shows. He also admitted that he had carried out several extrajudicial killings on the orders of the chief minister in late 90s.
In February, Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Mian Saqib Nisar took a suo motu notice of police encounters in the Punjab province. The chief justice had ordered Punjab Police Inspector General to submit a report on the total encounters reported in the province and the people killed in ‘police action’ during the last year.
Responding to the suo motu notice, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf spokesperson Fawad Chaudhry welcomed the development stating that PTI Chairman Imran Khan had already demanded a judicial commission on fake police encounters. Fawad Chaudhry stated that fake encounters had become a norm in the Punjab province. The PTI leader while addressing a press conference said that the Kasur incident was a failure of the police. He added that in Kasur District alone, at least 137 people were killed by police in fake encounters.
Also, PTI Chairman Imran Khan had stated that Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif was responsible for the killing of 870 people in fake police encounters during 1997-98. Addressing a public gathering in Lodhran several months ago, he had claimed that Shehbaz Sharif was not a superior servant (Khadim-e-Aala) but a superior murderer. Khan then requested the Supreme Court to form a commission to investigate the killing of 870 people in fake police encounters during the tenure of Shehbaz Sharif in 1997-98.
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 so-called ‘armed encounters’ were wanted to the police in different criminal cases. Suspects were shot and killed by police after weeks-long investigations.
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 provincial police.
The figures were almost double if compared to 2014 when at least 259 suspects were shot and killed in 267 armed encounters. The police had killed 360 alleged criminals in a total of 397 encounters reported across the province in 2012. However, in 2011, at least 127 alleged criminals were killed in shootouts with the law enforcing agency.
Believe it or not, more than 890 alleged gangsters were killed in at least 1100 police encounters in the province during the second tenure of Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif beginning in 2008. At least 252 police encounters took place across Punjab in 2010, which left 186 criminals dead. In 2009, the police staged 285 encounters and gunned down 236 alleged criminals. Not enough, the policemen had shot dead 259 criminals during 299 encounters, mostly staged, in 2008. Similarly, the police triggered no less than 209 encounters all over Punjab in 2007 and gunned down 247 criminals.
Under PML-N rule, the provincial police adopted an “aggressive” policy to eliminate hardened criminals in staged encounters despite strict warnings and notices by the rights activists. Opposition leaders claim, the Punjab rulers encourage extrajudicial killings (of most wanted gangsters).
As a matter of fact, fake police encounters or extrajudicial killings are quite common in this province. Police routinely kill ‘hardened’ criminals. And extrajudicial killings continue under all governments, no matter an elected person or a dictator is leading the affairs of the regime. The same Punjab Police had killed hundreds of criminals under the rule of former CM Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi in the province (from 2002 to 2007).
Insiders say, Punjab Police have set a criterion to eliminate hardened criminals and the scope of police shootings is amended from time to time. Once the officers are given go-ahead, those falling in the ‘encounter criteria’ are immediately eliminated. According to this so-called policy, gangsters found involved in robbery-cum-rape incidents and those who kill the victim even after accepting ransom, are killed in police action.
Similarly, a gangster who shoots a policeman or the criminal who kills the victim during house robbery attempt also falls in the same category. The police are also ‘empowered’ to decide the fate of the extortionists at their own.