The death of Sarfaraz Shah

Published: June 9, 2011
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Relatives and residents offer prayers for shooting victim Sarfaraz Shah during his funeral in Karachi on June 9, 2011, after he was shot by Pakistani paramilitary soldiers on the pretext of being an armed robber. PHOTO: AFP

Relatives and residents offer prayers for shooting victim Sarfaraz Shah during his funeral in Karachi on June 9, 2011, after he was shot by Pakistani paramilitary soldiers on the pretext of being an armed robber. PHOTO: AFP

We watched in disgust as a mob in Sialkot lynched a suspected criminal while the police stood idly by, watching the carnage. The shooting at point-blank range of an unarmed civilian by Rangers on June 8, in Karachi’s Benazir Bhutto Park may be even worse. In this case, law enforcement authorities were not just malicious bystanders but active participants in the violence. Nineteen-year-old Sarfaraz Shah was confronted and then shot by Rangers, who claimed that he was a robber who refused to surrender, although the footage of the incident does not support these claims. The video showed Shah beg for mercy as Rangers personnel surrounded him. His pleas to be taken to a hospital went unanswered, as he bled to death.

The incident is shocking — there is no law in the world that allows such cruelty to be meted out to a robber. The Rangers said that Shah was armed but all the police were able to recover was a toy gun. Too often we hear tales of police brutality and shrug it off. We should not reserve our outrage only for those instances when police inhumanity is captured on camera. The incident has attracted the attention of the prime minister and various political parties, all of whom have vowed to hold the Rangers officials accountable. Let us not fool ourselves into thinking that this response has been engendered by anything other than the fact that the ruthless murder was filmed. Police and paramilitary officials who think their badges give them immunity from prosecution are a dime a dozen and the sad part is that they are right. When eyewitness testimony is the only evidence available, police ‘encounters’ always end up with innocent people dead and the police spared.

An investigation needs to be conducted by an independent commission, not by the Rangers, which should arrive at its findings within a reasonable period of time. These findings should be made public, so that the guilty people can be punished. However, prosecution of the officials responsible is only the start of the solution. The police and Rangers need to have instilled in them values that are expected to be upheld by the guardians of the law.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 10th, 2011.

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Reader Comments (19)

  • nusrat osama
    Jun 9, 2011 - 11:54PM

    how many investigations have been conducted up till now… how many findings have been arrived at?… what is the hope ?? of justice?? of peace?? of truthfulness?? in this land of the pure ??Recommend

  • Shaikh Javaid
    Jun 10, 2011 - 1:18AM

    I strongly condemn this ruthless and brutal act by wild beasts in uniform as usual. I demand death punishment of all involved at the same spot by the hands of victim family in public. Hayat Ullah, Aamir Chema, Kharotabad chechens, saleem shahzad and numerous others are very fresh cases of rouge acts of armed forces and their associate intelligence forces who cannot fight with USA or Indians or against any strong force, who are biggest corrupt of all sorts, who cannot stop abbotabad operations, blasts and mehran base attacks but can occupy lands, properties, can kill unarmed civilians and can abduct their own country men because their institutions protect them after every crime either it is government toppling or some financial corruption or some abuse of their power. Let’s see what comes out in this case.Recommend

  • Ali Kazmi
    Jun 10, 2011 - 2:53AM

    There is a huge imbalance of power between the State and the citizenry which needs to be addressed. Ordinary Pakistanis need to be better able to protect themselves from the police, the army and the ISI especially since it’ll take decades for them to realize that they can’t kill people indiscriminately. I firmly believe that every man and woman in Pakistan should own guns and be fully prepared to use them against anyone who threatens their person or property.Recommend

  • Danish Kamal
    Jun 10, 2011 - 5:17AM

    From the current train of accidents, I just learn that we do not need army at all. Its better to spend on education and health of common innocent people.Recommend

  • Jun 10, 2011 - 5:48AM

    @Editor, I have one question to ask, how many independent comissions are we going to form. It seems like every week we have more than one incident, where there is a call for one. Why is that we have no faith and trust in those commisions either.

    Point to ponder on is, its not the commissions who can unravel the truth. Its people who are elected and selected to do their job, are answerable regardless. Lastly, the action needs to be taken by the institution itself, rather than relying on the neutrality of an independent comission. Then and only then institutions mature and evolve. Otherwise you have this circus like situtation repeat itself all the time. Recommend

  • Ayesha Jamil
    Jun 10, 2011 - 9:41AM

    This incident brings back the memory of the two Sialkot brothers who were killed so brutally because they were “claimed” to be robbers.Killed not by the Rangers but ordinary people!!

    Tell me something…..After watching this video (God knows which merciless sadist person made it) and having a family member killed so brutally at the hands of the so called “MOHAFIZ” of our own country, would his brothers/sisters and other family members not retaliate??

    This country is full of injustice. Its not just the people sitting high up there who are to be blamed, we as a nation have lost all moral, ethical and religious values. This nation doesn’t even come in the realm of an Islamic nation. I am disgusted and disappointed. Recommend

  • hanya
    Jun 10, 2011 - 10:07AM

    “there is no law in the world that allows such cruelty to be meted out to a robber”

    ET editorial – please show some respect for the law and human rights yourselves and use “alleged robber” as a man is innocent until PROVEN guilty.

    A shocking oversight.Recommend

  • Anwar
    Jun 10, 2011 - 12:15PM

    The poor forsaken country…PAKISTAN. Totally abandoned by God.Recommend

  • Jun 10, 2011 - 12:30PM

    this is heartbroken and painful incident every pakistani feeling unsecure our defender are killer of our innocent childs my humble requst to God save our childs from these beast forcesRecommend

  • RAN Singh
    Jun 10, 2011 - 12:52PM

    The culprit must be punished,they must be hanged publicly.Recommend

  • Jehan
    Jun 10, 2011 - 5:20PM

    This is a conspiracy against Muslims.Recommend

  • Chilli
    Jun 10, 2011 - 6:35PM

    Pakistan is turning to Barbaristan not my terrorist but by its own paramilitary forces. With incidents of Sialkot, Kharotabad, Quetta, FATA and Karachi we cannot expect any fair trial for such incidents. Our system is created to protect criminals. The dream of Quaid is distorted by criminals in power.Recommend

  • amna khan
    Jun 10, 2011 - 10:51PM

    I don’t understand how they can kill like that if something like this carries on in pakistan, then im afraid to say that killing will be a hobbie of every person living there good people will die for nothing. :( this is a major incident which should be dealt with severe punishment. pakistan is not even going to be capable of being called a muslim country if people dont turn right :/Recommend

  • Amin Ullah Khan
    Jun 11, 2011 - 1:15AM

    The revolution in Tunisia and Middle East started with a suicide of a young man. I guess now is the time we all should come out of our homes and do something like they did.Recommend

  • Sense
    Jun 11, 2011 - 2:32AM

    I think we must consciously focus at the root of the problem.

    The rangers carrying out the killing can be considered victims as well.

    They have been ill-trained and have not been given proper guidance as to what is proper protocol at all.

    Their seniors and commanders are the real ones to blame.

    The rangers were simply conforming to a culture which has evolved over time. It is their leaders’ role and responsibility to guide them properly.

    Now these few (poor) men go to jail, taking all the blame with them, for something they did probably thinking was the right thing to do

    Our police and rangers are just as victimized as us. If they were given proper guidance and taught in proper protocol, they would not be doing these acts.

    They are not told how to act appropriately and expected to find their own way. What would you expect?

    I feel sorry for them. They are actually one of the most misunderstood of the lot.

    They are simply carrying out their duties under the given circumstances.

    In no way taking away from the fact that what happened was an incredibly cruel, evil, and criminal act.Recommend

  • syed saif ali shah
    Jun 11, 2011 - 3:55AM

    the culprit must be punished…they must be hanged publicly…..,Recommend

  • Shock Horror
    Jun 11, 2011 - 4:10AM

    Rangers as killers, failed police service, failed establishment agencies, failed state, do we need any more evidence? I wonder what is next?Recommend

  • Omar R Quraishi
    Jun 11, 2011 - 5:15AM

    hanya — the editorial clearly says that the Rangers “claimed” that he was a robber — this is not the same as saying that he was one —

    Omar R Quraishi
    Editorial Pages Editor
    The Express TribuneRecommend

  • xaini
    Jun 11, 2011 - 10:18AM

    There will be no justice. In our country rapers and killers run freely. We are looming towards becoming a failed state and it looks inevitable now. Recommend

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