LAHORE: A special bench of an anti-terrorism court (ATC) on Thursday acquitted six officials of the Punjab Police’s Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) who were accused in the brutal murder of four people, including a woman and a minor.
Judge Arshad Hussain Bhutta gave the police officials the benefit of doubt. The verdict was delivered after recording statements from 49 witnesses, including the brother of one of the victims.
The accused – namely Safdar Hussain, Ahsan Khan, Ramzan, Saifullah, Hasnain and Nasir Nawaz – had shot dead a couple, Khalil and Nabeela, their daughter Areeba, and another man named Zeeshan on January 19 this year.
Khalil, his wife and their four children were travelling with Zeeshan when the CTD personnel stopped their car near Sahiwal Toll Plaza on GT Road and opened fire, later claiming that they were targeting suspected terrorists.
Khalil and Nabeela’s other three minor children – Umair, Muniba and Jaziba – survived the shooting.
CTD officials initially said the four victims were killed by the “firing of their own accomplices”. They said the operation was a follow-up of a previous raid and that they were tracing two wanted terrorists of Da’ish, Shahid Jabbar and Abdur Rehman, who were listed in the ‘Red Book’.
While the CTD dubbed it an ‘encounter’, the victims’ family maintained that they were going to attend a wedding. The family’s claim proved true as it later transpired that except for Zeeshan, all other occupants of the car were innocent.
A joint investigation team formed to probe into the incident confirmed that the family was innocent and that the CTD officials were responsible for their killing.
Subsequently, the Punjab government removed some top CTD officials and suspended others, while announcing that six CTD officials responsible for the killings would be tried on terrorism and murder charges.
It may be mentioned here that the CTD has repeatedly been accused of pressuring the victims’ family to drop the case.
At a press conference, the family’s lawyer Shahbaz Bukhari presented a seven-minute recorded call wherein a CTD official threatened his life.
Due to apprehensions expressed by the victims’ family over the JIT, the Lahore High Court ordered a judicial inquiry. The judicial inquiry led by civil judge-cum-judicial magistrate Shakeel Goraya recorded the statements of 49 people including eyewitnesses, CTD suspects amongst others.