The prime accused in the lynching of two brothers in Sialkot, SHO Rana Ilyas, managed to evade custody on Saturday and is currently at large. Ilyas, who fled from the office of the DSP Sialkot, was brought to the office so that he could be produced before a court for a judicial remand. The District Coordination Officer (DCO) Sialkot, Mujahid Sher Dil, has confirmed that the lynched youths had no criminal record. Sher Dil held the Sialkot police responsible for the incident as police officials witnessed the whole incident as silent spectators.
Police claimed to have arrested two police officers and five others who were present at the time the two brothers were beaten to death in public. Police contingents also stepped up efforts to apprehend six other officers who witnessed the murder but made little attempt to stop the mob.
DPO Sialkot Afzal Mehmood Butt said that five suspects involved in torturing the brothers had been rounded up and both of them were currently being investigated. “The culprits are still under investigation and we cannot release their names as yet. But rest assured we are doing all that we can to bring them to justice,” he said. Also on Saturday, a high-level committee, following the orders of Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, opened its investigation into the brutal murder of the two young men. The committee is headed by Deputy Inspector General Major Mubashar along with DIG Establishment Shoaib Dastgir. The committee’s officials visited the crime scene (Doburji Malhiyaan Chowk on the main Daska Road on the outskirts of Sialkot city) and gathered evidence.
The committee also recorded the statements of the grieving family. The committee has also recorded statements of senior police officials, Sialkot DCO Mujahid Sher Dil and local Rescue 1122 officials.
The investigators have assured the public of a transparent probe. “The TV footage confirms the presence of senior police officials on the spot when the youths were lynched,” Mubashar said. The grieving family of the lynched youths alleged that the senior police officials were protecting their juniors, adding that police had refused to register a murder case under Sections 302 or 109 of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC).
According to the family, the police registered a case against the SHO, a sub-inspector, four ASIs and eight other police officials under Section 155-C of the Police Ordinance. The section deals with misconduct by police officers when they are guilty of “any wilful breach or neglect of any provision of law or of any rule or regulation or any order which [they are] bound to observe or obey.” The maximum punishment under this section is three years in prison, with or without a fine.
After the chief justice’s intervention and a subsequent notification by the Punjab chief minister, an FIR however has been lodged in Saddar police station Sialkot under Sections 302 and 109 of the PPC (which deal with pre-meditated murder and abetment, respectively) against thirty people including 17 of those who were captured in the video footage. The other 13 accused are police officials, against whom a case – under 155-C of the Police Order – has already been registered. The 13 police officers include SHO Rana Ilyas Sub Inspector Gulzar, ASI Riaz Tariq, Sarfaraz, Waris Ali, Khaliq, Constable Rizwan, Nathay Khan, Mubarak Ali, Nawaz Salim and Abdul Razak.
While the family of the deceased boys and locals insists the boys were innocent, the family of the victim of a robbery, Bilal, contested this view. “You can go ask anyone, these boys were the robbers and they killed my husband. Why is my family being accused of spreading false rumours when we are the ones who lost someone? We didn’t kill those boys but they killed my husband,” said Bilal’s widow, adding that the media and locals had been threatening her family to keep quiet about the robbery incident that preceded the mob lynching of young brothers Mueez and Muneeb Butt.
President Asif Ali Zardari has also taken notice of the incident and issued a statement on Saturday, condemning the killing of the two young brothers. The president has also asked for an immediate report, ordering an inquiry into the murders. The presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar said that the president was upset over the sad episode and firmly believed that “such an act of infamy, shame and brutality should not go unpunished.”
Published in The Express Tribune, August 22nd, 2010.