Thirty people survived the attack on the bus on Friday but the police have been able to record only one person’s version of events, that of the cleaner, Nadeem Khan.
“There was complete panic yesterday and everyone who survived fled except for a few, including the injured,” said Qazi Ahmed SHO Edan Siyal.
Nadeem Khan said that a suspect caught the bus from Sakrand stop and said Rawalpindi was his destination. He asked the bus to stop near Rain Shaakh (a distributary) to collect documents from his brother. It was at that spot that the four assailants barged in.
There appears to be a discrepancy in Nadeem’s recounting of the number of attackers. A member of the motorway police, who reached the spot before the police, said that people there had put the number at seven.
“When I arrived, the conductor Lal Khan Jatoi was busy getting the panicked passengers who survived on to other transport vehicles passing by,” he said. Thus, they had long disappeared by the time the police came.
The motorway police reached the spot 10 minutes after it happened and called their ambulance and Edhi. The police arrived about 40 minutes later, as they were caught up on VIP protocol duties in Nawabshah where the first death anniversary of Hakim Ali Zardari was being observed. Cleaner Nadeem Khan’s statement to the police makes no mention of the killers letting Sindhis off the bus which is at odds with what he told the media earlier. “They told me, you are Sindhi, you may leave the bus and other Sindhis should also leave,” Khan had said. The motorway police official said, however, that he questioned a passenger who told him that had posed as a Sindhi to protect his life as they had shot one man who had admitted he was Punjabi.
The investigation is headed by SSP Nisar Channa. “We have the three men of the bus,” he told The Express Tribune, “but they are only being held for questioning and are not detained.” Two of the men, both conductors, are from Larkana and the third, a second driver, is from Rahim Yar Khan. SSP Channa stressed that he did not think it was an ethnic attack. “I don’t even know if there were pamphlets.”
It took the police 28 hours to file an FIR. It was registered by SHO Siyal hours after he replaced Jahanzeb Jalbani who was suspended for negligence. Six unidentified men have been nominated.
Over two dozen suspects have been detained from Shaheed Benazirabad and Matiari, according to sources.
The statement which claimed responsibility for the attack bore the name of Darya Khan, the chief commander of the Sindhu Desh Liberation Army. “Now we will no longer keep receiving the bodies of Sindhi nationalist leaders. I accept responsibility for today’s attack. I tell all the migrants in Sindh, especially Punjabis, that if they wish well for their families and property, they should leave Sindh,” read the paper found from the bus. The motorway police official said he saw four to five pamphlets.
On Saturday, the eighth victim, 45-year-old Qari Muhammad Ali of Rahim Yar Khan, passed away at Peoples Medical College Hospital. The Swabi-bound bus was carrying 38 passengers. The seven bodies were sent home for burials in Attock, Mianwali, Gujjar Khan and Taxila.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 27th, 2012.