Dramatic scenes were witnessed on Margalla Road near Fatima Jinnah Park as two men managed to escape in a stolen car after engaging in a gun battle with the police on Saturday afternoon.
According to the police, officials positioned at the Margalla Road check-post stopped two men on a motorcycle for a routine check around 2pm. As they stopped, the two men — believed to be in their early 20s — took out pistols and opened fire at the officials manning the check-post.
The post is located opposite Fatima Jinnah Park, near the F-10 roundabout. As the police took cover to retaliate, the two men abandoned their motorcycle and ran across the median to the incoming lane for traffic. They stopped a Toyota Prado, dragged the woman driving the car out on the road, put a pistol to her head and held her as a human shield, according to the police. The men also exchanged fire with the police for around 10 minutes. It ended when the men threw the woman by the roadside and escaped in her car towards F-10. The woman, who was later identified as USAID Chief of Party Dr Nabeela Ali, was taken to the Margalla Police Station after the incident and was in a state of shock, according to a friend of the woman’s daughter. She was threatened by the two men while they held her, the friend said. Police found her car abandoned in Sector G-11/2.
The two men were riding a motorcycle without a number plate, according to Margalla Police Station Sub Inspector Ghulam Habib. Police said the men were clean-shaven, wearing black shalwar kameez and spoke in Urdu with a Pashto accent. Police believe that one of the men was injured during the exchange of fire and a search for both men is ongoing.
“It was a case of petty criminals firing at the police in their desperation to get away,” a police officer said, requesting anonymity. The official said the police did not shoot down the culprits because they had held an innocent woman in front of them for cover and she was in the line of fire.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, Hamna Qureshi, an eyewitness, said she was travelling on Margalla Road when she noticed the commotion as cars in front of her came to a halt.“My driver suddenly asked me to duck in the backseat of the car and I heard gunshots the minute the car stopped,” Qureshi said. She said she caught a glimpse of two men holding a woman hostage and pointing a gun to her head.
“One of the police officers was really brave, he was walking straight towards them in the middle of the crossfire,” she said. Qureshi also tweeted about the incident immediately after. She might have created some panic among Islamabad’s twitterati when she relayed a comment from the police that the men might have been terrorists.
Shahid, a guard at gate 4 of Fatima Jinnah Park, a kilometre west of the post, said bullets from the crossfire landed in the gate 4 parking lot.
Meanwhile, Sabzi Mandi Additional Station House Officer (SHO) Javed Iqbal and his team tried to stop three suspects riding on a motorcycle on IJ Principal Road. The suspects started firing on the team and tried to flee. The police chased them and overpowered one of the three men, identified as Nayyab, while the other two escaped. The police recovered a 30-bore pistol from Nayyab and have started investigations. They are still searching for the other two men.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 4th, 2013.