A day after taking suo motu notice of the killing of 19-year-old Sarfaraz Shah by Rangers in Karachi, the Supreme Court on Friday ordered the transfer of the Director-General of Rangers in Sindh and the Inspector General of Police for the province, noting that they both were negligent in handling the case. In an unusually candid exchange, the Supreme Court justices observed that the entire terms of reference under which the Rangers were deployed in Sindh have to be reviewed and that the officials concerned should have resigned of their own accord after the incident.
A five-member bench presided by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, while disposing of the case, ordered that a notification for their removal be sent within three days, failing which the perks of both the officials would be ceased.
What is ironic is that the Sindh government continues to contest the case and tries to prove that Sarfaraz Shah was indeed a criminal and the action taken was justified. The Sindh government is also not willing to remove the officials.
In response to the court order, Sindh Minister for Law and Parliamentary Affairs Ayaz Soomro said the provincial government will file a petition to review the decision. Advocate General Abdul Fateh Malik will file a review petition in the apex court, Soomro said without elaborating. The minister added a case has already been registered against the accused.
The Supreme Court has appointed DIG West (Karachi) Khawaja Sultan as the investigation officer in the murder case and ordered that investigations be completed within seven days by submitting a charge sheet to the relevant court. The SC further ordered a trial court hold daily hearings on the case and give its verdict within 30 days.
At the beginning of the hearing, the chief justice observed that the killing of Shah by the Rangers was a clear case of extrajudicial killing. “The law is equal for everyone. Who has given the Rangers a licence to kill? The deceased was our son,” the CJP observed.
In his defence, DG Ranger Ijaz Chadhry said that soon after the incident, the responsible jawans were suspended and taken into custody. But AGP Maulvi Anwarul Haq added that a weapon was recovered from the possession of the deceased. Sindh IGP Fayyaz Leghari said that three FIRs were registered at different times in the Boat Basin Police Station and two officers were arrested.
The first FIR was registered within two hours of the incident by complainant Afsar Khan alleging that the deceased had attempted to rob his friend and his wife. Leghari said Afsar captured the man and handed him over to the Rangers. On the same day, a second FIR was registered by the Rangers claiming that the man was carrying an illegal weapon with an intent to murder an officer. The third report was registered by the deceased’s brother Salik Shah in which he said that his brother had a quarrel in Benazir Bhutto Park where he succumbed to his injuries. He later discovered that his brother was gunned down by two Rangers personnel along with two unidentified jawans. The court observed that the FIRs were contrary to the video footage shown in the court room.
The FIRs are exaggerated and not in consonance with the footage, Justice Javed Iqbal said on which the CJP added that “there must be a transparent investigation.” After obtaining their physical remand of the personnel involved, the investigation process will start, the court was told.
“It’s a brutal murder, we will take strict action. It is the second incident this month in which innocent people have been killed,”Justice Chaudhry said in reference to the Kharotabad firing in which five foreigners, including three women, were mercilessly mowed down.
Addressing the DG Rangers, CJP said: “You should have resigned immediately after the brutal killing.” In reply, the DG Rangers admitted that it was a clear case of murder. “I am not justifying the killer’s brutal act. The jawans have been arrested, but it is a fact that my soldiers performed very well in the PNS Mehran operation,” he commented. The remark was seen as a somewhat strange justification. In reply the chief justice said: “We appreciate it, but cannot allow Rangers to kill innocent people.” Justice Iqbal added the Rangers were posted to control target killings, “but were targeting civilians instead.”
The court inquired about the person in the footage who handed over Sarfaraz to the Rangers to which the Sindh IGP submitted said the man was Afsar Khan, a local resident. The court asked why Khan’s name was not mentioned in the FIR and why the killer’s abettors were not arrested. On this, the IGP helpfully told the bench that Khan is in police custody. “When his name is not mentioned in the FIR, how has he been taken into custody?” Justice Javed Iqbal retorted.
The chief justice summarised by saying that all the FIRs have incorrect information, adding that a transparent inquiry of the event is not possible in the presence of the sitting DG Rangers and the current IGP of Sindh.
In an attempt to calm the court, Sindh Chief Secretary Subhan Memon said he “accepted responsibility” for the incident, but the CJP said that Memon, DG Rangers and the IGP should resign instead.
Justice Javed Iqbal asked the secretary interior and the AGP to revise the policy of deputing Rangers to aid police and civil administration in Karachi, adding that the notification and the charter of duty should be reviewed.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 11th, 2011.