Colonel Salman Ahmed Khan, claiming to be a spokesman of Pakistan Rangers, appeared before the Anti-Terrorism Court on Friday to testify in favour of the main man standing trial - but neither did he present an official identity card nor did he show any written authorisation from the military establishment allowing him to despose in favour of an accused being tried for terrorism and the cold-blooded murder of a young man in June this year.
Shaukat Hayat, the lawyer for the main accused Shahid Zafar, conducted the examination in chief of Colonel Salman, who appeared as a defence witness. Salman informed the court about the legal apparatus under which different wings of the Pakistan Rangers have been deployed and put into action in aid of the police.
He said that since April 2011, the Rangers were given powers to police, i.e., search and arrest of criminals, terrorists etc. On June 8, 2011, the day of the alleged murder of Sarfraz Shah, the accused Rangers officials were on duty. They got a call about a robbery with a family inside the Shaheed Benazir Bhutto Park.
They reached the spot and took into custody an alleged robber. The alleged robber defied the orders of the Rangers patrol unit and instead tried to snatch a gun, during which a shot was fired accidently.
Col. Salman said that on June 9, he appeared in an interview with SAMAA TV along with Abdul Salam Soomro, the cameraman who recorded the incident. He testified that through the media he learned of threats to the cameraman, following which he visited the TV office and offered them security. He was told that the cameraman has been moved to a safe location.
The accused are neither terrorists nor did they kill any one and were on official duty at the time of alleged incident, the colonel deposed. To a question by Special Public Prosecutor (SPP) Muhammad Khan Buriro, Colonel Salman conceded that he had no written permission from the military establishment but voluntarily said that he has sought permission, which was given verbally. The SPP said that in the military there is no concept of “oral permission”. Col. Salman replied that “no written permission was required”.
When asked if he was testifying in favour of Shahid Zafar in his personal capacity, Col. Salman denied the suggestion and made a categorical statement that he was “representing the Pakistan Rangers”. At this stage he was asked to show his official card and computerised national identity card (CNIC) but both were not available.
The court allowed him time to produce a CNIC. With respect to an official identity card, he brought a letter signed by another colonel on behalf of the director general of Pakistan Rangers, saying that his card has been sent for renewal. If a citizen is found without identification he is grilled but it appears that the law enforcers are above the law and need no documents to prove their identity, the trial court observed.
To a question on how long the accused were working under his command, the colonel said that they were not under his command at the time of the incident. He denied being present at a press conference by Rangers DG Ejaz Choudhry who had said that the incident was a “personal” and “brutal act”. Col. Salman said that he was not aware of these remarks by Choudhry, who is the controlling authority of all Rangers in Sindh.
To another suggestion, he said that he saw the video but claimed that the accused have not killed the man.
Before Colonel Salman, Alam Zaib, another defence witness testified. He claimed to be in police service and said that on the day of the incident he went to the park with a girlfriend named Hira. He said the deceased put a gun to his back and asked him to hand over every thing upon which he asked his girlfriend to hand over her mobile phone etc. When he found a chance, he hit Shah with his pistol butt, overpowered him and handed him over to a man who came to their help on his call. I tried to call the police helpline “15” but could not get through and in the meanwhile another man, Afsar Khan, appeared on the scene and said he would hand Shah over to the Rangers.
I then left the place with my friend, he testified.
During cross examination by SPP Buriro, Alam Zaib said that he has no relation or acquaintance with the accused. He denied that he did not have a good reputation in his department and responded that he had a “very good” reputation.
When confronted with the fact that he has not been in police service since 2010 as his service card expired on December 31, 2009, he claimed to be in police service and said he was serving as a head constable. He was unable to show his police service card or any other documentary evidence of being a police official.
The trial court also dimissed a plea by accused Afsar Khan to summon police officers, including the IO, his two assistants as court witnessess. The court allowed a request to summon a driver of the Chippa ambulance service.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 6th, 2011.