Eight witnesses appeared before the judicial tribunal appointed by the Balochistan government to probe into the May 17 killing of five foreigners in Kharotabad, and seven of them recorded their statements on Saturday.
The cab driver of the foreigners and an assistant sub-inspector who had intercepted the vehicle at the first check post were among those whose statements were recorded.
The driver, Ata Mohammad, said that he had avoided the Buleli check post on the request of a local man accompanying the foreigners. He said that the man had told him to save the foreigners from being harassed by the police.
He said that some police personnel had stopped the taxi at the first check post and four men had stepped out of the vehicle to talk to the policeman. Police, he said, had searched the foreigners and found two shampoo bottles and four cell phone chargers from them. A police official, Raza Khan, found something from one of the bottles. “I do not know what it was, but it was wrapped in plastic.”
Later on police asked him to take them to a nearby police station. “When we were on the way to the police station a noisy quarrel broke out between police official Raza Khan and the foreigners during which two foreign men simultaneously shouted “Allahu Akbar” (God is great). I stopped the vehicle and I and the police official, stepped out from the vehicle. Raza Khan started firing into the air,” he added.
Responding to a query, the driver said he had not seen anything, except a couple of shampoo bottles. He said that Raza Khan had not informed anyone about the real situation.
ASI Raza Khan contradicted the cab driver’s statement, saying that both foreigners were carrying “hand-grenades”. He had informed his boss, the station house officer, over phone as soon as he “found the suspicious thing from the bottles”.
“They showed me hand grenades, and started shouting ‘Allah-u-Akbar’. When we stopped the vehicle, the foreigners ran after me. I tried to stop them by firing warning shots. Later, I started chasing the foreigners when they entered a narrow alley.”
“I saw the SHO of Kharotabad police station entering the street…from the opposite direction. He also started firing. Subsequently, the foreigners…ran towards the FC (Frontier Constabulary) check post (which was located) on the highway. All five foreigners fell down near the picket after one of the foreigners dropped a hand-grenade, which exploded”.
An ASI in the bomb disposal squad, Yasir Arafat, told the tribunal that he and his colleagues had recovered “a pin and two levers of a hand-grenade” from the corpses.
The SHO of the Airport police station said that about three days ago he had received a letter from CCPO, Quetta, in which the city police chief had warned of a possible terrorist attack on government installations. He said that in response to the letter, security had been enhanced in the entire area.
The tribunal did not record the statement of local magistrate, Sardar Rafique Tareen.
Terming the issue a sensitive one, the provincial advocate-general said most of the witnesses “may feel insecure about recording their statements in public hearings, also attended by media representatives”. He urged the tribunal not to hold “public hearings to protect the eyewitnesses”.
Justice Hashim agreed with the advocate-general for holding the hearing in secret.
The hearing was later adjourned till Monday.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 5th, 2011.