SUKKUR/ISLAMABAD/KARACHI: Two days after five people were killed in Goth Mari Jalbani, near Sakrand in District Shaheed Benazirabad, an FIR was registered against 40 unidentified suspects on Saturday, with Pakistan Peoples Party Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and caretaker Sindh chief minister Justice (retd) Maqbool Baqar ordering a transparent investigation into the incident.
The five villagers were killed on Thursday after shots were fired during a raid carried out by officials of law enforcement agencies to arrest militants belonging to a separatist organisation. The incident was followed by several demonstrations, in which the protesters demanded justice.
Expressing concern over the incident, Bilawal also demanded a transparent investigation. According to a statement released to the press, the former foreign minister asked the interim provincial government to ensure a fair probe.
Talking to the media after attending a 12th Rabiul Awwal procession at Karachi’s New Memon Masjid on Friday, caretaker CM Baqar said he has ordered an inquiry and told the officials concerned to submit a report to him within four days.
Expressing grief and sorrow, he said he held a meeting with interim home minister Brig (retd) Haris Nawaz and was informed about the details of the incident. “Such kinds of incidents are painful and shouldn’t take place.”
Baqar said he had ordered forming a three-member team to investigate the incident. The inquiry committee would be headed by Hyderabad Commissioner Khalid Hyder Shah, with the DIGs of Shaheed Benazirabad and the Special Branch as members.
The main sit-in was being held with the bodies of the deceased on the National Highway since Thursday. Shaheed Benazirabad Deputy Commissioner Zahid Hussain Rind visited the protesters on Saturday to assure them that an FIR would be registered.
Later, when the FIR was registered, the sit-in ended, and the bodies were taken to a Nawabshah hospital for autopsy, then to Goth Mari Jalbani. FIR No. 39/2023 was registered at the Mari Jalbani police station under sections 302 (Punishment of qatl-i-amd) and 324 (Attempt to commit qatl-i-amd) of the Pakistan Penal Code.
The FIR quoted complainant Rasheed Ahmed Jalbani as saying that on Thursday officials arrived in five police mobiles, and a black and a white double-cabin vehicles, wearing uniforms of different institutions and in plain clothes.
The complainant said that a shoot-out occurred with some suspects, during which five villagers — Sajawal, Aziz Nizamuddin, his brother Akan, Imam Bakhsh and Mehar Jalbani — were killed and three others wounded.
Their funeral prayers, which had been offered on the National Highway on Friday, were attended by Sindh United Party President Syed Zain Shah, Riaz Chandio of the Jeay Sindh Mahaz, Jeay Sindh Qaumi Mahaz leader Dr Niaz Kalani and others.
On the call of lawyers’ bodies, court proceedings across the province were boycotted. Protest demonstrations were also held on the call of the Sindh Bar Council (SBC) and the Karachi Bar Council.
Court proceedings were boycotted at all the courts, including the city courts and Malir district courts in Karachi. Lawyers also protested in Hyderabad, Sukkur, Jacobabad, Umerkot, Naushahro Feroz, Nawabshah and other cities. Leaders of the SBC and district bar councils said they would keep voicing their concerns until everyone responsible is arrested. The Karachi Bar Association (KBA) and the Malir Bar Association urged their members to observe a full-day strike. Most lawyers stayed away from courts and under trial prisoners were also not brought to the courts, resulting in the postponement of hundreds of cases scheduled for the day.
During a general body meeting convened by the KBA, speakers deplored the Sakrand incident and demanded an impartial investigation to bring those responsible to justice.
In a joint press conference, SBC member Zulfiqar Ali Khan Jalbani and KBA President Amir Saleem questioned the impartiality of a fact-finding committee formed by Baqar to investigate the incident, and called for a judicial inquiry into the matter instead. The civil society and nationalists parties also protested in almost all cities of the province, including Sukkur, Hyderabad, Nawabshah, Jamshoro, Jacobabad, Larkana, Mirpurkhas and Umerkot.
Dr Safdar Abbasi, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Sindh General Secretary Advocate Ali Palh and others visited Goth Mari Jalbani to offer their condolences to the heirs of the deceased. Terming the killings tragic, Palh said the feeling of deprivation has increased in the province, adding that such incidents would destroy the trust of the people in the institutions. He demanded that those responsible be punished.
Talking to the media, Dr Abbasi said the incident has affected the reputation of the Sindh police and other law enforcement agencies not only in Pakistan but internationally as well. He said that the biggest crisis in Pakistan is a lack of political institutions, stressing the need to rebuild the institutions in the country. “We need to value our people and political activists.”
Participants of a protest demonstration in Karachi on Saturday demanded that those responsible be arrested at the earliest to ensure justice to the bereaved families.
A large number of social and political workers, labourers and civil society members attended the protest organised by Shehri Awami Mahaz. They carried placards and banners demanding the arrest of those involved, the sacking of the caretaker home minister and compensating the bereaved families.
National Trade Union Federation General Secretary Nasir Mansoor claimed the police and Rangers had repeated the tragedy of Tando Bago in Goth Mari Jalbani. He said the incident is a big question mark on the justice system. It is heartening that the entire province is protesting against the tragedy, he added.
Mansoor said a person who is not even related to Sindh has been made interim home minister, which shows that the rulers are not interested in improving the conditions in the province.
The protesters demanded that those responsible in the Sakrand tragedy be arrested and given stern punishment. They also demanded that a commission comprising high court judges and representatives of citizens be formed to investigate the incident.
They demanded compensation of Rs1 million for each to the families of the deceased and the injured. They also demanded appointing an unbiased caretaker home minister belonging to Sindh, purging the Sindh police of political interference and planning for the return of the Rangers from the province.
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