Truth behind Sahiwal slaughter

  • Form judicial commission, make report public

Even by the standards of a society accustomed to horrific incidents almost on an everyday basis, the cold-blooded highway slaying on January 19 of four people, including a couple and their teenage daughter, in a car carrying three other child passengers, by the anti-terror personnel, has left citizens shocked and scared. To hide the facts, shifting versions of the terrible event were put forward every day, but now it is clear that at least three of the victims were innocent, their only mistake being travelling in a vehicle driven by their neighbour, an allegedly Daesh terrorist, also shot dead. The Joint Investigation Team officially constituted to probe the deadly affair, and on whose veracity and transparency the Punjab chief minister stands resolute, has already been rejected by PPP and PML-N, by Senate Human Rights Committee, and most importantly, by the affected families, who have reportedly challenged it in court, demanding a judicial commission instead. This is a genuine request that needs heeding to ensure complete neutrality and fairness of investigation and ultimately, of credibility and acceptance of the findings. Otherwise, the matter will drag on without end, as in the Model Town massacre, about whose actual facts no one is the wiser, the victim families are still vainly awaiting justice and closure, while a damaging initial report was kept under wraps for years by the previous government.

The carefully worded version of the event presented in the Senate on Wednesday by the government in effect reiterates the slain terrorist’s Daesh links, that the terror alert concerning him was real and intelligence-based, but the counter-terrorist police’s ‘method of encounter’ was at fault, and it acted in haste in order to avert a possible terror act. But the actual breakdown is at two levels, first in the complete failure, under stress, of the Standard Operating Procedure laid down in such cases, and second in the frightening lack of basic human decency shown during the encounter. So many contradictory statements make the truth elusive at this stage, but allegedly firing point blank and repeatedly at a vehicle whose passengers include women and children, frankly flummoxes any explanation or defence. And puts a question mark on professional training.