Fixing blame: Inquiry committee absolves police of blame in Sea View tragedy

AIG Ghulam Qadir Thebo says Section 144 was not imposed until Thursday, July 31.



KARACHI:


Initial findings of the Police Department inquiry committee suggest that the police was not responsible for the drowning incident as Section 144 of the Pakistan Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) was not imposed on the days that the casualties occurred.


The police department had constituted an inquiry committee to investigate the incident and fix responsibility for the deaths. The committee comprised District South DIG Abdul Khalique Shaikh, District East DIG Munir Shaikh and Special Branch Security SSP Haseeb Afzal Baig and was supposed to submit its report within 24 hours.

Karachi Police chief AIG Ghulam Qadir Thebo told The Express Tribune that the police was not responsible for the incident as Section 144, banning people from gathering at the beach, was not imposed at the time by the Sindh Home Department. "Section 144 was imposed by the home department on July 31," he said. "The home department has verified this," adding that most of the casualties occurred on July 29 and July 30. "After July 31, police personnel have not allowed people to go to the beach. No one has gone missing in the area since."

The committee is now looking into the incident from different angles, including why a majority of the people drowned at a single point; whether it was an infrastructure failure and if there were any warning signs or rescue services to aid the public.  According to Thebo, the police have written letters to the Karachi Port Trust (KPT) to inquire into any dredging that may have been carried out near the beach which might have created ditches and caused the people to drown. They have also sent letters to the Pakistan Meteorological Department to inquire about the high tide and weather. "We have written to the KPT, the Met Department, the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation and the Cantonment Board Clifton for their versions. The report will be finalised with input from all stakeholders," he said. For his part, the KPT spokesperson denied the claims, saying that they had dredged the sea channel in order to make way for the Deep Water Container Port but it had nothing to do with the deaths and the tidal effect.

"The dredging was there for the last few years and it was done after properly studying its impact on the surrounding areas. The dredged areas are around two kilometres away from the beach and has no impact on the rising tides or flow of water" he said.

The spokesperson, however, feared that the death toll may be higher as some bodies may still not have been retrieved.

Sea View Road closed for public

In response to a query regarding the blockades on main Sea View road, Thebo said that the police were simply being extra cautious to prevent more people from drowning.

"We cannot tell for sure who is going for a swim and who is simply going for a stroll along the beach," he said.  "We will only open the beach for public once Section 144 is lifted." The government, according to Thebo, has imposed Section 144 on the beach for the next three months.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 6th, 2014.

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