Punjab Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) officers on Saturday killed four people, including a couple and their teenage daughter, and injured a teenage boy in a suspicious “encounter”.
A national outcry erupted over the killings that prompted the government to take the security officials into custody and order an investigation into the incident.
Questions about the practice of “encounters” were raised on social media as well, with many calling for investigations into such incidents.
In August last year, Karachi Police admitted that firing by police official inadvertently caused the death of 10-year-old Amal Umer, a minor who lost her life after being hit by a stray bullet during a police encounter in Karachi’s Akhtar Colony.
The 10-year-old girl was killed when a policeman opened fire at a robber, who had robbed her family a few minutes earlier.
In the same month last year, police in Faisalabad killed two matriculation students in alleged encounter late at night. Police claimed that the two were killed during an exchange of fire but none of the policemen present at the scene experienced even minor injuries in the exchange.
On January 13 last year, Naqeebullah – among four others – was killed in a fake encounter after which then Malir SSP Anwar had claimed that those killed belonged to the terrorist outfit Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). Anwar is alleged of issuing the orders of the encounter and placement of pistols and hand grenades on victims’ bodies.
Anwar went into hiding soon after demands for his arrest in the Naqeebullah murder case gained traction after it came to light that the victim had been a shopkeeper and aspiring model from Waziristan who had settled in Karachi.
According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), a total of 3,353 people have been killed in encounters in the country since October, 2013.
It is important to note here that the data collected by the HRCP is based on media reports. It is possible that the total number of cases and those killed may be higher than stated.
A vast majority of those “encountered” by police in such incidents were men (6,632), with 23 women and 12 minors. A total of 10 passerby were killed and another 53 were injured in the incidents.
A total 2,611 of the accused were able to escape.
Similarly, a total of 1,923 individuals had prior criminal history, while six did not have any history of crime and such information about another 149 is unavailable.
Most of the deaths occurred in cases of dacoity – 822, followed by robbery (259), murder (234) and terrorism/ militants (207), kidnapping (67) and rape (32). However, no information regarding charges is known regarding 254 cases.
In the case of police, 55 officers have died in the time period.
Most of the encounters occured in Punjab province, although most of the deaths from encounters were reported in Sindh province. In contrast, the number of such incidents in Balochistan or Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) were low.