–CTD claims all deceased were suspected terrorists and were killed by firing of their own accomplices
SAHIWAL: Punjab Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) officials have killed four people, including a couple and their teenage daughter, and injured a teenage boy in a suspicious ‘encounter’ on GT Road near Sahiwal on Saturday, triggering a national outcry that prompted the government to take the security officials into custody and order an investigation into the incident.
The counter-terrorism officials claimed that the operation was conducted to capture an ‘Islamic State (IS) commander’ on a tip off by an intelligence agency.
After the uproar on mainstream and social media, Prime Minister Imran Khan took notice of the incident and ordered Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar to probe the matter and submit a report in this regard.
In a statement issued after the ‘encounter’, the CTD claimed that the raid was carried out on the information of a “sensitive organisation”– though it did not specify the particular agency.
“The [alleged] terrorists retaliated by firing at the CTD officials following which a shootout ensued. Once the firing stopped, four people were found dead, reportedly as a result of firing by their own accomplices, while three terrorists had fled the scene,” the CTD said in a statement.
As per the CTD statement, suspects identified as Shahid Jabbar and Abdul Rehman were travelling towards Sahiwal and were reportedly in possession of arms and explosives.
“They used to travel with families to avoid police checking. Today, they were warned to surrender but they resorted to firing,” read the statement, adding that Shahid Jabbar, Abdul Rehman and another unidentified suspect fled from the scene on a motorcycle.
“Recoveries include suicide jackets, hand grenades, rifles, etc,” it claimed.
‘PARENTS, SISTER KILLED IN COLD BLOOD’:
An injured child Umair Khalil, who was present in the vehicle at the time of the incident, told reporters that he was travelling to Burewala for his uncle’s wedding with his father (Khaleel), mother (Nabeela), elder sister (Areeba), father’s friend (Zeeshan) and two younger sisters when their vehicle was stopped by police officials.
“My father begged the policemen to take money and let us leave but they opened fire without any reason,” the boy claimed, adding that his father, mother, elder sister and father’s friend were killed in the firing and kept back in the vehicle. “The police left us [Umair, younger sisters] at a petrol pump and we were later taken to a hospital,” he added.
In a video, a man who identified himself as an uncle of the children, said that several family members were going from Lahore to a village near Burewala in four vehicles to attend a wedding. He said he was travelling in another vehicle and lost contact with the deceased as their mobile phones were off.
He alleged that the CTD personnel tried to rob the victims as they were carrying cash, jewellery and other valuables, and then killed them.
In another video, doing rounds on the social media, eyewitnesses and people present at the hospital can be seen suggesting that police shot the family members in cold blood and following the incident, the CTD personnel initially abandoned the wounded children at the crime scene and left.
They alleged that it was only after some time that they returned to the crime scene and shifted the three injured children to a government-run hospital nearby.
They added that the car’s passengers, who were coming from Lahore, did not have any weapons and that the CTD officials had opened fire without any provocation.
PM SEEKS REPORT:
The encounter sparked protests on the outskirts of Lahore, leading to traffic jams on Ferozpur Road. Consequently, Chief Minister Buzdar ordered the formation of a JIT headed by a senior police official and comprising representatives of intelligence agencies to probe the matter and submit its report within three days.
Moreover, the police have arrested the CTD officials on the orders of the chief minister.
Buzdar, who left for Sahiwal himself, also directed Punjab Law Minister Raja Basharat to remain in contact with Sahiwal’s deputy commissioner and ensure the provision of best-possible treatment to the injured children at the DHQ hospital.
Visiting the hospital later in the day, the Punjab chief minister inquired after the health of the injured and condoled to the bereaved family. “Justice will be served at all costs,” he said.
Punjab Minister for Information and Culture Fayazul Hassan Chohan said there will be clarity about what happened within an hour for it seems that CTD officials abused their authority by initiating the encounter. The CTD officials took action against the suspects on a tip-off from an alleged terrorist, who had been arrested by the intelligence agencies in Karachi, he said.
Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said the Punjab government would soon provide a detailed account of the incident. “The CTD officials say that the people killed in the incident were suspected terrorists,” Chaudhry said.
Earlier on January 15, CTD officials had carried out another ‘intelligence-based operation’ in Faisalabad in which they killed two persons allegedly belonging to a militant outfit. They had claimed that the killed terrorists were involved in the abduction of former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani’s son in 2013.