— Justice Khan directs Saleemi to present case documents on Jan 24
LAHORE: The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Tuesday summoned Punjab Inspector General of Police (IGP) Amjad Javed Saleemi as it took up a petition demanding an impartial inquiry into the Sahiwal encounter case.
On Saturday, Punjab Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) officials killed four people, including a couple and their teenage daughter, and injured a teenage boy in a suspicious “encounter”, 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.
Later, a joint investigation team (JIT) was formed to probe the incident, though the Punjab government insisted that CTD personnel had carried out the “Sahiwal operation on the basis of solid evidence and a Da’esh [Islamic State] terrorist Zeeshan was killed resultantly”.
On Monday, Lawyer Mian Asif Mahmood had submitted a petition in the LHC questioning the legitimacy of the JIT, which includes police higher-ups and representatives from the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).
He had argued that the JIT formed by the Punjab government “would not be able to find out the truth and hold police staff accountable”, and a judicial commission should’ve been created to look into the matter. The government did not want a “transparent” inquiry in the matter, he argued.
He contended that the high court holds the authority to investigate the matter pertaining to human lives and called for the formation of a judicial commission headed by a sitting judge to look into the matter and award punishment to those responsible for the deaths.
He had also referred to official statistics of Punjab police which stated that the law enforcement agency conducted 247 encounters in 2017, 91 in 2018 and about seven were reported in January 2019 so far.
The petitioner contended that the court should direct the prime minister to form a judicial commission so an “unbiased inquiry” can be conducted. The Punjab chief minister should also furnish a copy of a detailed report on the incident among other ‘encounters’ undertaken in the past and action taken against the involved police personnel, he directed.
Mahmood also demanded that the Punjab police chief should instruct his staff not to shoot at fleeing suspects and deprive them of automatic weapons.
He further requested that the Punjab government should initiate a compensatory relief package for the victims of the Sahiwal incident and execute the guilty cops within 90 days as had happened in the case of Zainab Amin, a minor who was raped and murdered in Kasur.
As the court heard the petition on Tuesday, Justice Sardar Mohammad Shamim Khan commented that it is within the Centre’s mandate to form a judicial commission in the matter. At that, the Punjab government’s counsel told that a JIT has already been formed to investigate the incident as the government is “very serious” about the incident.
As he accepted the petition, Justice Khan summoned IGP Saleemi to court on January 24. Stating that it was a matter of “personal interest”, he ordered him to bring along all of the documents pertaining to the case.