In a baffling development in the Chechen killings incident, the police chief of the area has been transferred after being promoted to grade-18.
Naveed Atif was the superintendent of Airport Circle police when five Chechens were gunned down in Kharotabad on May 17 by police and Frontier Corps personnel. While security forces claimed the foreigners were terror suspects, evidence has emerged that they were unarmed. The Balochistan government has constituted a judicial tribunal to probe into the killings.
But while investigations continue, Atif, who was expected to be questioned by the tribunal, has been transferred. He will now report directly to the headquarters of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) in Islamabad.
Atif was present at the spot after the operation ended and claimed that 56 detonators were recovered in separate shampoo bottles from the vehicle in which the Chechens were travelling.
More witnesses come forward
Meanwhile, two more people registered on Friday to appear before the judicial tribunal, which will begin hearing testimonies on Monday.
As many as 18 people have come forward to register as private witnesses during the past three days. While most have chosen to publicise their identities, the two people who registered on Friday requested the media and the tribunal not to reveal their names.
People who have registered as witnesses are residents of Killi Khezi Chowk, the area where the incident had occurred, a provincial leader of right-wing Jamaat-e-Islami, a lawyer, a photojournalist and two members of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam. The tribunal is headed by Balochistan High Court’s Justice Hashim Kakar, and has received footage and photographs from witnesses. The provincial health department has also handed over autopsy reports to the tribunal.
‘Chechens were illegal immigrants’
According to a FIA official in Quetta, the Chechens had illegally entered into Pakistani territory through the porous border with neighbouring Afghanistan and intended to move to Iran. “There is no official record on them. Their passports did not contain Pakistani visas and they crossed the border with the help of human traffickers,” the official told The Express Tribune, requesting anonymity. “They paid the agent who transported them from Chaman to Kuchlak and, after a brief stay, resumed their journey to Taftan, the Pakistani town that borders Iran.”
However, he suggested it was likely that the driver has complete details on them. The driver is currently in police detention.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 28th, 2011.
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