LAHORE: Controversies continue to haunt the joint investigation team (JIT) probing the Nov 3 gun attack on former prime minister Imran Khan in Wazirabad, as the Punjab government once again revised its composition, removing four of its members on Sunday.
Dera Ghazi Khan Regional Police Officer (RPO) Syed Khurram Ali Shah, Punjab Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) Superintendent of Police (SP) Naseebullah Khan, Assistant Inspector General (Monitoring) Ehsanullah Chohan and Potohar SP Malik Tariq Mehboob were removed from the team after a fact-finding report recommended strict action under terrorism and other charges against them. It also recommended departmental action against them under Government Servant (Efficiency & Discipline Rules) 1973.
The report was finalised by Punjab Prosecutor General Chaudhry Khaliquz Zaman, who was deputed as the inquiry officer soon after an official letter written by the officers carrying divergent views from the team head surfaced in the media regarding the number of shooters involved in the Wazirabad attack.
The government replaced the four officers with Dera Ghazi Khan District Police Officer Muhammad Akmal, Punjab Highway Patrol SP Anjum Kamal, Jhang Crime Investigation Agency Deputy Superintendent of Police Nasir Nawaz and any other official co-opted by the JIT head. A notification in this regard was issued.
This is the fourth time that the composition of the JIT has been changed since its formation on Nov 9.
JIT convener, Lahore Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) Ghulam Mahmood Dogar, had levelled allegations of non-professionalism, misuse of office, tampering with evidence and leaking of confidential information about the investigation to the media against the four officers. He had suggested initiation of an inquiry against them.
The CCPO’s allegations followed a letter the four members had written to him, expressing reservations over the way he had been trying to influence the investigation process, and also disputed claims that there were multiple shooters involved in the attack.
Sending the inquiry report to the home department, Mr Zaman proposed action against the officers under Section 21-A (sub-section 6)(a) of Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997, Rule 14.8 of Police Rules, 1934, the relevant provisions of the Police Order, 2002 and others.
In his findings, he has also recommended punishment of two to three years with fines under relevant provisions of the law against the officers found guilty of misconduct for releasing classified information to the media, deliberate efforts to distort facts, damaging the investigation and disobeying the orders of their senior (JIT head). He has further asked the authorities to confiscate the mobile phones of these officers and send them for forensic analysis.
On the other hand, the inquiry officer has also endorsed the findings of CCPO Dogar that multiple shooters were involved in the attack on Mr Khan in Wazirabad.
“The report of PFSA Lahore dated 16.12.2022 concludes that 12x crime empties were fired from 30-bore caliber and 2x crime empties/cartridges fired from 7.62 x 39mm caliber. Similarly, another report of PFSA Lahore dated 03.01.2023 clearly concludes on test basis that the 9x crime empties have not been fired in the item P1 pistol, which is pistol of accused Muhammad Naveed used in the crime,” read the inquiry report.
It further stated that the use of three different weapons has been established from the Punjab Forensic Science Agency reports, which clearly revealed there were three shooters at the site, so the opinion formed by the four former members of the JIT in their written statement that there was “no credible/independent evidence has come on the record which shows that there were more than one firers/assailants” was against the facts and available evidence.
“This way, they have tried to damage the veracity of the evidence, which amounts to misconduct as well as a crime,” the inquiry report said, adding: “The four members of JIT have demonstrated criminal misconduct in not showing due service interest in discharging their legal duties by violating the disciplinary rules, destroying evidence and incorrect reporting, based on mala fide intents and ulterior motives.”
It further alleges that the officers acted illegally by leaking confidential and sensitive information to the media and made “deliberate efforts” to derail the investigation.
“I am of the view that sufficient evidence has been found in the record that they have exceeded their powers and acted in the way not provided in the law and rules,” Mr Zaman wrote in the report.
The report recommends “punishment with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both” for framing incorrect record or writing with intent to save a person from punishment or property from forfeiture, the inquiry officer recommended.