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PAKISTAN: Thirteen people killed in fake encounter in Sahiwal district

February 16, 2008

ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION – URGENT APPEALS PROGRAMME

Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-033-2008

16 February 2008
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PAKISTAN: Thirteen people killed in fake encounter in Sahiwal district

ISSUES: Extrajudicial killing; impunity; rule of law
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Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information regarding the extra-judicial killing of 13 men by the authorities in Sahiwal district, Punjab province on 10 February 2008. Police appear to have carried out the murders in the guise of an 'encounter killing'. Their bodies were immediately buried without autopsies having been done and only one body was released on February 14. As of now there have been no investigations into the killing.

CASE DETAILS:

According to the information received, on 6 February 2008, Mr. Sadiq, Mr. Zulfiqar and Mr. Iftikhar were taken 60 kilometres away from Sahiwal, Punjab province. When their relatives (Mr. Shareef, Mr. Amanat and Mr. Anwar) came to know of the arrest, they approached Sub Inspector (SI) Mr. Liaqat Ali at Kamalia Saddar Police Station for their release. The SI asked them to accompany him to Kassowal for the release of the arrested men. On route, the SI was contacted by the Superintendent of Police (SP) and the District Police Officer (DPO) of Sahiwal district, Mr. Javed Shah. The DPO asked that the three relatives also be brought to Kosowal, where it is alleged that he planned to arrest them. As they reached Lundoo Canal in Toba Tek Singh, 90 km far from Sahiwal district, the Kassowal police intercepted the car, arrested the three and took them to Kassowal Police Station.

The next day, on February 7, Kassowal police officers raided Chak 325-JB in Dullam, three km from Toba Tek Singh, where they arrested Mr. Murtaza, Mr. Ilyas and Mr. Ashraf.  They also raided Chak 152-GB in Bhindian, five km from Toba Tek Singh, and arrested Mr. Siddiq. Then, they raided Chak 335-GB, where they arrested Mr. Rafiq, Chak 336-GB in Nia Saraba, where they arrested Sharif and Bashir. They took all of these men to Kassowal city.

However on February 10, SP Shah led a police party plus the 13 men to the farmhouse of Mr. Sardar Najeeb (at Chak 133/9-L), Sahiwal city. Najeeb had allegedly been robbed and attacked at this farmhouse in March 2007, in which one woman was allegedly injured. It is alleged that SP Shah has received help from Najeeb in various ways. The 13 men were shot and killed there in the presence of Najeeb, his companion Mr. Abdul Rahman, his son Mr. Farhan, and Mr. Najeeb's nephew Mr. Mohsin Khateeb, and other police officers.

On February 11, the authorities and Najeeb reported that on the previous night, 25 robbers stormed Najeeb's farmhouse, and that these individuals came in a truck and a car. Najeeb stated that, as he had previously been the victim of a gang robbery in March 2007, he had arranged for private security measures. He claimed that before the robbers entered his home, he, his security men, his nephew and Mr. Farhan had taken positions. He further claimed that as the robbers entered the house by scaling the walls, they were fired at by 12 bore shotguns and other firearms. Najeeb stated that 13 robbers were killed and 12 others fled in the truck, leaving the car at the farm.

However, though Najeeb claims that the victims were killed in crossfire, and police allege that pump action and other automatic weapons were found near the dead bodies. However, not a single projectile mark can be found on any wall of the house. Also arousing suspicion is the fact that, according to press reports, the route the robbers supposedly took is too narrow for a truck.

The Sahiwal administration buried the bodies in haste at Mahi Shah Graveyard. The administration and the police have neither allowed post-mortem examination of the bodies nor released them to their relatives in Toba Tek Singh.

Perhaps most baffling is the authorities' denial that these 13 individuals had been under arrest at the time of their deaths--and the alleged robbery attempt.

The body of Mr. Anwar, a taxi driver, was exhumed and handed over to his family and buried at the grave yard in his home town on February 14. The SP Shah has refused to hand over other dead bodies which were hurriedly buried by the police after the encounter.

Police are now looking for the other 12 robbers that allegedly escaped however, no investigation has been made into the farm house killings.

ADDITIONAL BACKGROUND:

There are some groups of gypsies working for building a road or construction or crushing stone in the districts of Kosowal, Toba Tek Singh and Sahiwal. Whenever there is any dacoity or theft, people generally believe that the gypsies, who are also called OADH, are involved in those crimes. The Sahiwal district is notorious for gang robberies.

Five robberies were committed in the district during January 2008. Police and influential people were blaming gypsies for the crimes.

According to the media, SP Shah is very notorious for killing several people in police encounters after their arrest whereever he was posted. When he was serving in Vehari, Multan district, Punjab province as SP, he killed Mr. Riaz Basra in 'encounter' after his arrest.

SUGGESTED ACTION:
Please write letters to the authorities listed below and urge them to thoroughly investigate the extrajudicial killing on the pretext of 'encounter killing'.

The AHRC is also writing separate letters to the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions calling for an immediate intervention in this case.

To support this appeal, please click here:

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SAMPLE LETTER:

Dear __________,

PAKISTAN: Thirteen people killed in fake encounter in Sahiwal district

Details of the victims:
1. Mr. Sadiq, residing at Chak 152-GB in Bhindian, Toba Tek Singh, Punjab Province
2. Mr. Zulfiqar, residents of Kassowal, Punjab province
3. Mr. Iftikhar, residents of Kassowal, Punjab province
4. Mr. Amanat, residents of Kassowal, Punjab province
5. Mr. Shareef, residing at Chak 336-GB in Nia Saraba, Sahiwal district, Punjab province
6. Mr. Murtaza, alias Dholli, residing at Chak 325-JB Dullam, Toba Tek Singh, Punjab province
7. Mr. Ilyas, residing at Chak 325-JB Dullam, Toba Tek Singh, Punjab province
8. Mr. Ashraf, residing at Chak 325-JB Dullam, Toba Tek Singh, Punjab province
9. Mr. Siddiq, residing at Chak 152-GB in Bhindian, Toba Tek Singh, Punjab province
10. Mr. Rafiq, residing at Chak 335-GB, Punjab province
11. Mr. Anwar, taxi driver, registration number LOH 6172, residing at Chak 335-GB, Toba Tek Singh, Punjab province
12. Mr. Sharif, residing at Chak 336-BG in Niz Saraba, Sahiwal district, Punjab province
13. Mr. Bashir, alias Bagga, residing at Chak 336-GB in Nia Saraba, Sahiwal district, Punjab province
Names of alleged perpetrators:
1. Mr. Javed Shah, District Police Officer, and Superintendent of Police Sahiwal District, Punjab province
2. Mr. Liaquat Ali, Sub Inspector, Kamalia Saddr Police Station, Kamalia, Punjab province
3. Mr. Sardar Najeeb, popularly known as Sardar Bilu
4. Mr. Mohsin Khateeb, nephew of Sardar Najeeb, residing at Farm House, Chak No. 133/9-L,
Sahiwal district, Punjab province
5. Mr. Abdul Rehman, Lumberdar, government post
6. Mr. Farhan, son of Lumberdar, residing at Sahiwal district, Punjab province
Date of incident: 10 February 2008
Place of incident: near farm house at Chak 133/9-L, Sahiwal city, Punjab province

I am writing to voice my concern regarding the extrajudicial killing of 13 men in Pakistan's Sahiwal district on 10 February 2008.

According to the information received, a total of 13 men were arrested over a period of two days, from February 6 to 7 in various locations in and around Sahiwal, Punjab province. The men had been charged with robbery, though at least three were arrested after voluntarily arriving at the police station to inquire about their detained relatives.

Sub Inspector (SI) Liaqat Ali at Kamalia Saddar Police Station took some of the men to Kassowal Police Station, where he was joined by Superintendent of Police (SP) and District Police Officer (DPO) of Sahiwal district, Mr. Javed Shah, and other arrested men from the area.

On February 10, SP Shah led them with a police party to the farmhouse of Sardar Najeeb, located in Chak 133/9-L, Sahiwal city, who had been the victim of a robbery in March 2007. Reports suggest that Najeeb and SP Shah are on friendly terms. The 13 men were shot and killed there in the presence of Najeeb, his companion Mr. Abdul Rahman, his son Mr. Farhan, and Najeeb's nephew Mr. Mohsin Khateeb, and other police officers.

The next day the authorities and Najeeb stated that on February 10, 25 robbers had stormed Najeeb's farmhouse, arriving by truck and in a car. Najeeb stated that he, his security men (arranged after the March robbery) and his nephew among others had fired at the robbers as they scaled the walls of the house. They used 12 bore shotguns and other firearms. Najeeb stated that 13 of the robbers were killed, and 12 others fled in the truck, leaving the car at the farm.

However, I have been informed that many claims are contradictory. Not a single projectile mark could be found on any wall of the house where the 13 men were allegedly killed on the pretext of 'encounter'. In addition, the route that 12 others fled in the truck was too narrow for a truck to pass through. Most importantly, all those killed were arrested either on February 6 or February 7 and had been kept in Kamalia Saddar Police Station before they were killed. After the killings, the Sahiwal administration buried the bodies quickly at Mahi Shah Graveyard, and the bodies neither have been released to family, nor have postmortems been permitted.

I, therefore, urge that thorough and independent investigation into this case must be conducted without delay. The family of the victims should be actively involved in the process of the investigation without any hindrance. Compensation has also to be provided to the families as well. I further urge that those responsible for the murder must be brought before the court if the allegations by the relatives of the victims are proven true through an independent investigation. I finally urge you to take every step within your authority to ensure that 'encounter killing' is put an end in Pakistan.

I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Yours sincerely,


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PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:

1. General Pervez Musharraf
President
President's Secretariat
Islamabad
PAKISTAN
Fax: +92 51 922 1422, 4768/ 920 1893 or 1835
E-mail: (please see - http://www.presidentofpakistan.gov.pk/WTPresidentMessage.aspx)
 
2. Minister of Law, Justice and Human Rights
S Block
Pakistan Secretariat
Islamabad
PAKISTAN
Fax: +92 51 920 2628
E-Mail: minister@molaw.gov.pk 

3. Federal Minister of Interior
Room#404, 4th Floor, R Block,
Pak Secretariat
Islamabad
PAKISTAN
Fax: +92 51 9202624
Tel: +92 51 9212026
E-mail: minister@interior.gov.pk 

4. Lt. General Khalid Maqbool
Governor of Punjab
Governor House
Mall Road, Lahore
PAKISTAN
Fax: +92 42 9200023
E-mail: governor.sectt@punjab.gov.pk 

5. Secretary of Law and Parliamentary Government of Punjab
Punjab Secretariat
Ravi Road
Lahore
PAKISTAN
E-mail: law@punjab.gov.pk 

6. Chief Secretary of Government of Punjab
Punjab Secretariat
Lahore
PAKISTAN
Fax: +92 42 7324489
E-mail chiefsecy@punjab.gov.pk 

7. Home secretary
Punjab Secretariat
Lahore
PAKISTAN
E-mail: home@punjab.gov.pk 

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (ua@ahrchk.org)

Document Type :
Urgent Appeal Case
Document ID :
AHRC-UAC-033-2008
Countries :
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Extended Introduction: Urgent Appeals, theory and practice

A need for dialogue

Many people across Asia are frustrated by the widespread lack of respect for human rights in their countries.  Some may be unhappy about the limitations on the freedom of expression or restrictions on privacy, while some are affected by police brutality and military killings.  Many others are frustrated with the absence of rights on labour issues, the environment, gender and the like. 

Yet the expression of this frustration tends to stay firmly in the private sphere.  People complain among friends and family and within their social circles, but often on a low profile basis. This kind of public discourse is not usually an effective measure of the situation in a country because it is so hard to monitor. 

Though the media may cover the issues in a broad manner they rarely broadcast the private fears and anxieties of the average person.  And along with censorship – a common blight in Asia – there is also often a conscious attempt in the media to reflect a positive or at least sober mood at home, where expressions of domestic malcontent are discouraged as unfashionably unpatriotic. Talking about issues like torture is rarely encouraged in the public realm.

There may also be unwritten, possibly unconscious social taboos that stop the public reflection of private grievances.  Where authoritarian control is tight, sophisticated strategies are put into play by equally sophisticated media practices to keep complaints out of the public space, sometimes very subtly.  In other places an inner consensus is influenced by the privileged section of a society, which can control social expression of those less fortunate.  Moral and ethical qualms can also be an obstacle.

In this way, causes for complaint go unaddressed, un-discussed and unresolved and oppression in its many forms, self perpetuates.  For any action to arise out of private frustration, people need ways to get these issues into the public sphere.

Changing society

In the past bridging this gap was a formidable task; it relied on channels of public expression that required money and were therefore controlled by investors.  Printing presses were expensive, which blocked the gate to expression to anyone without money.  Except in times of revolution the media in Asia has tended to serve the well-off and sideline or misrepresent the poor.

Still, thanks to the IT revolution it is now possible to communicate with large audiences at little cost.  In this situation there is a real avenue for taking issues from private to public, regardless of the class or caste of the individual.

Practical action

The AHRC Urgent Appeals system was created to give a voice to those affected by human rights violations, and by doing so, to create a network of support and open avenues for action.  If X’s freedom of expression is denied, if Y is tortured by someone in power or if Z finds his or her labour rights abused, the incident can be swiftly and effectively broadcast and dealt with. The resulting solidarity can lead to action, resolution and change. And as more people understand their rights and follow suit, as the human rights consciousness grows, change happens faster. The Internet has become one of the human rights community’s most powerful tools.   

At the core of the Urgent Appeals Program is the recording of human rights violations at a grass roots level with objectivity, sympathy and competence. Our information is firstly gathered on the ground, close to the victim of the violation, and is then broadcast by a team of advocates, who can apply decades of experience in the field and a working knowledge of the international human rights arena. The flow of information – due to domestic restrictions – often goes from the source and out to the international community via our program, which then builds a pressure for action that steadily makes its way back to the source through his or her own government.   However these cases in bulk create a narrative – and this is most important aspect of our program. As noted by Sri Lankan human rights lawyer and director of the Asian Human Rights Commission, Basil Fernando:

"The urgent appeal introduces narrative as the driving force for social change. This idea was well expressed in the film Amistad, regarding the issue of slavery. The old man in the film, former president and lawyer, states that to resolve this historical problem it is very essential to know the narrative of the people. It was on this basis that a court case is conducted later. The AHRC establishes the narrative of human rights violations through the urgent appeals. If the narrative is right, the organisation will be doing all right."

Patterns start to emerge as violations are documented across the continent, allowing us to take a more authoritative, systemic response, and to pinpoint the systems within each country that are breaking down. This way we are able to discover and explain why and how violations take place, and how they can most effectively be addressed. On this path, larger audiences have opened up to us and become involved: international NGOs and think tanks, national human rights commissions and United Nations bodies.  The program and its coordinators have become a well-used tool for the international media and for human rights education programs. All this helps pave the way for radical reforms to improve, protect and to promote human rights in the region.