A jeweller died in mysterious circumstances in the middle of a police investigation into allegations that he bought stolen gold, prompting an angry protest at Ichhra which held up traffic on Ferozepur Road for three hours on Thursday.
About a hundred traders from the Shah Jamal gold market burnt tyres and shouted slogans demanding the arrest of the policemen responsible for the “extra-judicial killing” after the death of Muhammad Rafi, a jeweller who was in his 40s. The police claimed that Rafi had committed suicide. An autopsy report is expected in a couple of days.
The protestors finally dispersed at around 3pm after senior police officials vowed to register a case against the investigation officer. Inspector Mian Aslam, the official in charge of the investigation wing at the police station, was later named as the accused in an FIR registered under Sections 302 and 34 of the PPC and 155 of the Police Order 2002.
The traders insisted that Rafi had died because of police torture, while the police claimed that he had suddenly gulped down some acid when they took him to his shop in Latif Centre to recover the stolen gold. Defence A Station House Officer (SHO) Attique Dogar told The Express Tribune that Inspector Aslam had told him that Rafi had been arrested by investigation wing officials on Wednesday, after four dacoity suspects dacoits arrested earlier had claimed to have sold 76 tolas of stolen gold to him.
During interrogation, Rafi had confessed to buying the stolen gold from the robbers, he said. An FIR was registered against Rafi and the suspected dacoits under Sections 399 and 402 of the Pakistan Penal Code. The police then escorted Rafi to his store in Latif Centre to seize the stolen gold, and at some point the suspect swallowed some acid. He was taken to Services Hospital where he was pronounced dead.
Rafi’s family gave a different version of events. Abul Hassan, a relative, said that the family had been contacted by police on Wednesday night with a “ransom” demand, but they didn’t have enough money. “He was innocent,” Hassan said.
He added that the police had told the family that Rafi was the head of a gang of six dacoits, but they didn’t believe that because of his poverty. “Just last month he borrowed money so he could pay rent,” Hassan said.
Zahid, the owner of Zahid Jewellers, said that he and four of his employees had seen two large men in plain clothes escort Rafi to his shop on Thursday. He said that Rafi had looked weak and fragile. “His escorts were standing either side of him and supporting his weight as he was struggling to walk on his own,” he said.
After Rafi was taken to Services Hospital and the news spread that he had died, the traders at the market organised a protest on Ferozepur Road to demand justice. Model Town SP Awais Malik and Crimes Investigation Agency SP Umer Virk were eventually able to persuade them to stop their protest with a promise that the culprits would be brought to book in two days.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 26th, 2011.
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