Top govt official confirms Sahiwal operation was 'ill-planned, bungled'

Driver Zeeshan Javed was affiliated with Da'ish terrorist outfit, says Punjab's additional chief secretary

Muhammad Ilyas January 23, 2019
Victims of the Sahiwal encounter.

LAHORE: Punjab's Additional Chief Secretary Faisal Asghar Sahoo has confirmed that the Sahiwal operation that claimed the lives of an innocent family along with a terror suspect was based on "credible intelligence but poorly planned and naively executed".

Khalil, his wife Nabeela, daughter Areeba and driver Zeeshan Javed were killed in the bungled operation by the Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) on GT Road in Sahiwal on January 19. Khalil's son Mohammad Umair and two daughters Muniba and Jaziba were also wounded in the "operation" which triggered nationwide outrage.

It transpired that Khalil and family were innocent and, according to Punjab government officials, became "collateral damage" in the operation that targeted Zeeshan Javed who was said to be affiliated with the Da'ish terrorist outfit.

Sources said on Tuesday that data from a cell phone seized on Zeeshan shows him pictured with Usman Haroon, a high-profile terrorist gunned down by the CTD in an encounter in Faisalabad on January 15.

‘Strong evidence’ of driver’s links to terrorists found

Investigators have also found the registration documents of Zeeshan's Suzuki Alto car which show that it had been purchased in the name of Adeel Hafeez, another Da'ish terrorist killed in the January 15 encounter, sources added.

Briefing the media in Lahore on Wednesday, the additional chief secretary confirmed that Khalil and his family were innocent and didn't have any criminal record. However, he claimed that Zeeshan was affiliated with the proscribed group. Provincial Information Minister Fayyazul Hassan Chohan was also present at the briefing where Fateha was offered for Khalil and his family.

The briefing came a day after the provincial government removed top CTD officials from their posts and announced to try another five CTD officials on murder and terrorism charges. The action was taken based on the findings of a joint investigation team constituted to probe into the tragedy.

Sahoo claimed that Zeeshan belonged to a Da'ish network run by Adeel and Usman, the two high-profile terrorists killed in the January 15 CTD raid in Faisalabad and that the bungled Sahiwal operation was a follow-up. He added that a huge cache of explosives and arms were recovered from Adeel and Usman.

"Abdur Rehman was the ameer of the network, while Adeel was his deputy," he added. "The intelligence agencies have been tracking this network since 2017."

The same network was involved in the killing of three officials of a sensitive agency in Multan and a police officer in Faisalabad, Sahoo claimed. "They were also involved in the killing of American aid worker Warran Weinstein and abduction of former chief minister Yousaf Raza Gillani's son."

The additional chief secretary admitted that Zeeshan didn't have any criminal record in the past. And his affiliation with the network came to light following the killing of Adeel. "Zeeshan had also shot selfies with Usman," he added. "He was also in constant touch with Adeel."

Sahoo claimed that Da'ish didn't have a firm foothold in Punjab, though small cells were working independently. He added that the CTD worked in close coordination with the intelligence agencies. "We have recorded 82% drop in incidents of terrorism in the province – and the credit goes to the CTD," he added.

At the briefing, an audio recording was also played for the media in which Zeeshan could be heard speaking to Adeel, the Da'ish terrorist killed in the Faisalabad raid.

JIT holds CTD responsible for ‘innocent’ family’s killing in Sahiwal ‘operation’

The additional chief secretary confirmed the CTD had found no arms or explosives in the Alto car in which Zeeshan was driving Khalil and his family to Burewala when the tragedy happened in Sahiwal. He also conceded that the operation was ill planned and naively executed.

"Initial intelligence suggested that four terrorists were travelling in the car," Sahoo said. "The car was traced in the Chungi Amar Sadhu area of Lahore a day before the Sahiwal operation," he added.

Asked why action was delayed when the car had been traced on January 18, Sahoo said the law enforcers didn't want to execute the operation in the densely populated neighbourhood.

Speaking on the occasion, Chohan said that the JIT report was incomplete and that its head has sought time to gather more information on the activities of Zeeshan. "We will proceed against the top CTD officials after the JIT submits its complete report," he added.


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