The killing of four people, including a man, his wife and their teenage daughter, in what Pakistan’s Punjab police called a shootout with “terrorists” has triggered a public outcry and the victims’ family held a protest against the “staged” encounter.
The family was travelling in a car when the alleged encounter which the Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) officials later termed an ‘intelligence-based operation’ took place on a highway in Sahiwal, about 200 km from Lahore, on Saturday.
Those killed in the encounter included grocery store owner Mohammad Khalil, 42, his wife Nabila, 38, their 13-year-old daughter Areeba and their friend, Zeeshan Javed, who was driving the car and police said he was on the country’s wanted terrorist list.
The couple’s minor son also sustained a bullet injury while two other daughters remained safe.
According to CTD, the operation was conducted after intelligence was received that terrorists were travelling towards Sahiwal with arms and explosives.
The CTD claimed in a statement that the law enforcers signalled a Suzuki Alto car and a motorcycle to stop near a toll plaza, but they did not pull over and instead opened fire.
Eyewitnesses and the victims’ family members, however, strongly refuted the CTD’s version, and told Pakistani daily Dawnthat the four were shot dead in “cold blood by the police” in the “staged” encounter.
They claimed that no weapon was recovered from the vehicle after the alleged shootout, the daily reported.
The family members of the victims and area residents held a protesting and blocked a road in Lahore.
Prime Minister Imran Khan has sought a report from Punjab Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar over the incident.
The prime minister also directed to hold a transparent and detailed inquiry into the incident to uncover the facts.
The Punjab Chief Minister also ordered the arrest of the CTD officials involved in the shootout, the daily reported.
Punjab Inspector General (IG) has announced the formation of a joint investigation team (JIT) to probe the incident.
Federal Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said the actual picture of the incident will become clear after a thorough investigation into the incident.
“Apparently it seems that the terrorists used ‘human shield’ to protect themselves,” he said.