The Punjab Public Relations’ senior officials invited editors, anchorpersons, correspondents and bureau chiefs of different newspapers and channels to an in-camera briefing at 90-Shahrah-e-Quaid Azam, one of Chief Minister’s offices, on Wednesday.
A large number of the invitees reached the venue only to hear that the speaker of the Punjab Assembly has given a ruling that the House should be briefed in-camera before such a briefing is extended to media persons. At one stage many thought that after the speaker’s ruling and following provincial Law Minister Raja Basharat’s statement explaining why the speaker had to initiate such a ruling, there would be no briefing for journalists at all.
However, after waiting for nearly 45 minutes, Punjab Information Minister Fayyazul Hassan Chohan appeared in the briefing hall which was an indication that some sort of briefing will certainly take place. After another 20 minutes, Additional Chief Secretary (Home), Captain Fazeel Akhtar arrived and narrated almost everything that had already been said and claimed by different PTI leaders and heads of law-enforcing agencies.
At the briefing, the Punjab government and the law-enforcing agencies appeared to be marred by utter confusion in their attempt to shift the blame of killing three members of an innocent family and the ‘owner’-driver of the car – Zeeshan.
Initially, the Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) claimed all the victims were terrorists. But now that this claim stands exposed, they are asserting that Zeeshan was a terrorist, or at least he had links with Daesh in Afghanistan.
The Punjab government, which towed the CTD line since the beginning, now accepts that the Sahiwal operation was ill-planned and wrongly executed but it too insists that Zeeshan was a dangerous man – a claim bitterly contested by the family of the deceased.
The latest story being projected is that the linkage between ISIS, popularly known as Daesh, and Zeeshan came to the surface after two terrorists Adeel and Kashif Langrra were killed in a Faisalabad operation, carried out jointly by the CTD and intelligence agencies.
The evidence put forward is that the ill-fated Suzuki Alto was seen at several points along with a silver-colored Honda City, which was under the use of terrorists according to the information received from some sources in Afghanistan.
The occupants of the targeted Suzuki Alto were therefore assumed to be ‘dangerous terrorists’ and an operation was planned to take them out.
But here are two big problems. One, Zeeshan was a clean man. There is no record of his being involved in any criminal activity, let alone any terrorist act.
Two, the only presentable ‘evidence’ of his association with ISIS comes from the information extracted from his mobile phone. Even if there really is any such information, it has emerged only after the man has been killed i.e. he cannot defend himself anymore.
The residents of the area where Zeeshan lived say they never saw him doing any suspicious things. Even a senior leader of the PTI is on record having said that she had known Zeeshan’s family for 30 years and could vouch that he was not involved in any terrorist activity.
One version of the CTD says that family and children are often used by terrorists as human-shield. But it failed to provide any evidence if such information about the occupants of the car was available with those who ordered point-blank shooting of the occupants.
Registration of two different FIRs, one by the family and the other by the CTD officials, is another serious issue. One FIR says that the occupants opened fire on the CTD staff, while the other claims direct shooting by the CTD without any provocation by the occupants of Suzuki Alto.
The CTD has admitted that there was a chance of an error culminating in the Sahiwal tragedy, but it is trying to sell its success against terrorism by claiming that terrorist acts in Punjab have reduced by 82 percent as a result of the successful operations it carried out jointly with intelligence agencies.
It is claimed that there is no centre or group of Daesh in Punjab and the terrorist outfit hires local people to carry out their evil operations. Those who were killed in Faisalabad and Gujranwala operations had been termed hardcore Daesh terrorists and with their elimination, a strong ISIS gang has been busted, they say.
Justifying the direct shooting on the vehicle, the argument offered is that on most occasions the terrorists put on suicide jackets and it is feared that on getting close to them they may explode themselves.
Punjab information minister confided to anxious journalists that had this been a flawless operation, “we would not have been sitting with them to explain our position”. It was a faulty operation and instead of trying to hide facts from the general public, the provincial government decided to get the FIR lodged.
“In case of Model Town carnage and Zainib Bibi case in Kasur, it took such a long time to the previous government to lodge the FIRs. But we would not hush-up this tragedy and would make sure the culprits are punished as soon as possible”, he said.
“No CTD man who had committed the crime of killing innocent civilians would escape exemplary punishment and the PTI government would not neglect this human-suffering only to save some guilty officials”.
One can now conclude that heads of different law-enforcing agencies, several ministers are issuing contradictory statement without realising that this attitude would further complicate the issue and it would become immensely difficult for them to handle it.
Please don’t add to the confusion if you are incapable of reducing it – could be the only piece of advice to all those responsible for taking this brazen act of violence to its logical conclusion.
Utter confusion among authorities on Sahiwal tragedy