LAHORE, Dec 8: A closed-circuit television (CCTV) camera footage aired by a private TV channel has raised questions about authenticity of an alleged police encounter in which a youth was killed on Friday night as the police claim he was a robber on the run.
The incident took place in a street near Guru Mangat Road, Gulberg, and the victim was still unidentified.
The CCTV footage telecast by a local news channel showed a young man clad in shalwar kameez being chased and shot by police. The footage later showed the police placing a pistol near the body. The channel airing the footage said the pistol was placed to establish that the dead man was a robber and was firing at the police.
The police had claimed the victim and his accomplice had snatched a motorcycle from a citizen, identified as Yasir Butt, at T Chowk, near the Gulberg’s Main Boulevard, around 8:45pm on Friday.
After snatching the bike, the accused went to Hali Road where they were allegedly intercepted by police and opened fire at the law enforcers. The victim, according to the police, suffered a bullet injury to his ribs during the ‘encounter’.
As his accomplice ran away, the victim fled the scene on the snatched motorcycle which he later abandoned and began running in streets, reaching a clinic at Guru Mangat Road and seeking immediate treatment.
In the meantime, the police also reached there. On seeing the police, the victim rushed out of the clinic and opened fire at police. Then he ran towards a street where crossfire took place and he was killed as a result, the police claimed.
Muhammad Boota of Kahna Nau, a paramedic at Khalid Clinic, told Dawn by phone that an injured man came to the clinic around 11:50pm and asked for dressing.
He said the man initially claimed he accidentally suffered a wound to his ribs, but on removing his shirt it turned out to be a bullet injury. The victim also carried a mouser with a belt, Boota said, adding he told the man to go to a public hospital as it seemed to be a criminal case.
Meanwhile, he said, two policemen came to the clinic and asked the staff about the injured man. As the policemen were about to enter the dressing room, the suspect wiped out his weapon and fired at them, making the cops flee the clinic.
He said the suspect then took position at the clinic’s door from where he repeatedly fired at the policemen who too had taken cover by the time.
Boota claimed the suspect then came out of the clinic amidst police aerial firing and ran towards an adjacent street. He was then followed by the police.
However, the footage aired by the TV channel showed the unarmed victim running without any sign of injury.
Apparently, there were also no blood stains on the victim’s clothes, raising doubts about the police claim that he was earlier shot in the ribs. Question arises as to how an injured man could run, even for his life, normally.
Another question was that why the police ignored the accomplice who escaped on foot and preferred to chase the victim who was fleeing on a motorcycle.
Punjab IG Habibur Rehman has announced a departmental inquiry into the incident to be completed in two days. A judicial probe may also be ordered.
“I don’t believe in fake encounters and police officials if found guilty (of killing the man in cold blood) would be taken to task,” the Punjab police spokeswoman said quoting the IG.
DIG Operations Tahir Rai insisted the killed youth was a robber who lost his life while challenging police. He claimed the footage captured by a CCTV installed at a house in the area was “used to twist facts”.
The police said the cell phone SIM found on the body was issued in the name of Mohsin Abbas, but the victim’s identity could not be ascertained so far.
Ghalib Market police registered two separate cases --- one of motorcycle snatching and the other of police encounter.
Meanwhile, Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has directed the IG to investigate the incident and submit a report within 24 hours.
According to a handout, the chief minister also ordered the IG to immediately register a case against the police officials involved in this incident and arrest them. He further said a judicial enquiry would also be conducted into the alleged police encounter.
A senior police officer told Dawn that the IG had constituted a three-member team to probe into the killing and any action would be taken against the policemen concerned in the light of its recommendations.