‘Pakistani police walked back earlier claims that they shot four insurgents while three suspects escaped on a motorcycle with police in hot pursuit”
After police opened fire on a family inside a car at point-blank range on Jan 19, eastern Punjab – killing the couple, their daughter and a family friend before dragging three minor children from the vehicle
Shocking footage of the incident went viral and sparked protests at the extrajudicial police killing and attempts at coverup
Initial police stance is that they killed 2 male and two female insurgents in a shootout
Pakistani Counter-terrorism officers claimed those killed in a shootout on a highway in Sahiwal, eastern Punjab province on jan 19, were insurgents
Four people died after police opened fire at the parked car in broad daylight
Grocery store owner Mohammad Khalil, 42, his wife Nabila, 38, their 13-year-old daughter Areeba and their friend, Zeeshan Javed were all killed
Three children, all under the age of 10, survived, but were pulled out and abandoned at a gas station by police
Sr officer Rai Tahir said when police acting on intelligence stopped them near the city of Sahiwal, insurgents traveling in a car opened fire
Police returned file killing four, but none of the officers were hurt in the shootout
Tahir said three suspects escaped on a motorcycle pursued by police, adding that insurgents often use women and children as human shields during travel
The incident in Sahiwal led to protests and the five policeman face murder charges
The officers now face murder charges after the incident in the eastern city of Sahiwal last month, during which a family friend was also killed.
Those killed were identified by relatives as residents of the Kot Lakhpat area in the suburbs of Lahore — 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 was on the country’s wanted terrorist list.
Officers then reached inside the car, around the bodies of Mohammad and Nabeela Khalil, their daughter Areeba and their friend Zeeshan, to pull out three surviving children.
The children, all under the age of 10, were later found abandoned at a gas station some distance away from the incident. One of the survivors, Kalil’s son Umair, who was wounded in the shooting, told a local TV station that the family was going to attend a wedding.
Footage of the killings taken in broad daylight by shocked witnesses went viral in Pakistan – sending Prime Minister Imran Khan scrambling to quell anger over a police culture of impunity that is now being threatened by social media.
After the incident they pulled three crying children, the oldest of whom was nine, out of the car. They children were later found abandoned at a gas station some distance away from the scene
Mr Khan tweeted that he was shocked ‘at seeing the traumatized children who saw their parents shot before their eyes’.
Thousands have been gunned down in recent years across Pakistan in so-called ‘encounter killings’ – incidents where suspects allegedly resist arrest, are slain, then later identified as terrorists to boost statistics.
Nine-year-old Umair Khalil survived alongside his two younger sisters. He said police shot at the family, who ran a grocery shop, even as their father offered them a bribe and pleaded to be let go.
Umair said the group, from Lahore, had been travelling to a family member’s wedding police stopped them at a toll booth.
‘My father told them to take our money and not to shoot their guns. But they started firing,’ Umair said in the video broadcast widely across Pakistan news outlets and social media.
‘People… know that a video they make from their cell phone can have far more impact than the camera of a news channel,’ said Pakistani digital rights activist Haroon Baloch.
‘Had the nearby people not filmed the Sahiwal incident, nobody would have noticed the extrajudicial killing,’ he added.
The incident is the latest instance of how phones are radically changing Pakistanis’ relationship with power.
During elections over the summer, a host of videos went viral, showing angry voters hounding elected representatives over their failure to serve their constituents.
The Sahiwal incident comes almost exactly a year after a similar killing of a young social media star in Karachi ignited an ethnic rights movement by the country’s Pashtun community.
The movement it spawned – the Pakistan Protection Movement, [PTM] – has been largely sustained by social media and videos captured on mobiles, piling even more pressure on authorities.
But the killings continue, with analysts saying reforms are needed to challenge impunity in the police ranks.
Data compiled by the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan showed that 4,803 people were killed in these ‘encounters’ in Pakistan within the past three years alone.
‘It’s a culture of the police in Pakistan to kill people and make it look it like an encounter,’ Mehdi Hasan – chairperson of HRCP told AFP, while stating that calling for ‘The police need to be properly trained if such incidents are to be avoided in the future’.