District Coordination Officer Mumtaz Hussain Zahid on Monday ordered the release of 18 men arrested last week under Section 3 of the Maintenance of Public Order (MPO) Ordinance for the Bhakkar-firing incident on August 23.
The release orders were issued on the recommendations of District Police Officer Sarfraz Falki and the Reconciliation Core Peace Committee, formed after the incident.
At least 11 people were killed in an exchange of fire between two religious during a protest on August 23 near Kotla Jam. The situation had turned worse when activists organised violent demonstrations, burned tyres and blocked public roads. This had led to proclamation of curfew. Businesses had remained closed for days before normalcy returned a week after the incident.
Over the following days, district police had arrested 18 men from the two groups on the orders of the Home Department. Those arrested were sent to Mianwali Central Jail and Sargodha District Jail for 30 days.
Cases had been registered against 119 nominated and 160 unidentified men on the complaints of members from both groups.
Police and Rangers had been deployed across the city, while police raided several areas in the district to make the arrests. The DCO told The Express Tribune that a 14-memember core peace committee had been formed by the district government to maintain peace and order in the district.
The committee is led by former district naib nazim Rana Aftab Ahmad and its members include MPA Majeebullah Khan Niazi, Syed Wazarat Hussain Naqvi, Maulana Muhammad Safiullah, Maulana Saifullah Khalid, Maulana Shaikh Al Hadees, Maulana Muhammad Sharif Rizwi and Anjuman-i-Tajrana president Rana Muhammad Hanif.The committee was made responsible for a dialogue between the two groups aiming at reconciliation. After the first meeting of the core committee a few days ago, 68 of those nominated in the FIR had turned themselves in at the DCO’s office.
On Friday, DPO Falki had sent a report to the DCO stating that the committee had so far been successful in its objectives. He had said that more arrests were expected soon. He had, however, mentioned that 18 of those arrested were clearly not involved in the shooting and that they should be released.
On Monday, the DCO ordered release of the 18 men. He also ordered the DPO to get them to sign an undertaking stating that they would be available to the police if needed for investigation. Failure in doing so would result in their re-arrests on charges of non compliance with the police.
The DPO identified the men as: Abu Zar, Muhammad Zafran, Muhammad Younas, Muhammad Yaseen, Muhammad Ramazan, Samiullah, Muhammad Sultan, Muhammad Farooq, Ghulam Hussain and Muhammad Nasrullah of Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat, and Mukhtar Hussain, Syed Sajjad Hussain, Nazar Abbas, Ali Haider, Mumtaz Hussain, Amjad Ali, Himayat Khan and Mukhtar Hussain of Majlis-i-Wahdat-i-Muslimeen.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 10th, 2013.