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Opposition accuses Punjab govt of ‘protecting’ culprits

ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly on Tuesday continued debate on the Sahiwal tragedy for a second consecutive day as opposition members reiterated their demand for a parliamentary committee to oversee the investigations, alleging that the Punjab government was trying to cover up the “cold-blooded murder” of three members of a family by personnel of the Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD).

Also read: Fake encounter in Sahiwal

Responding to the opposition’s demand that the report of the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) constituted by the Punjab government to probe the incident should be presented before parliament, federal Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari told the house that the interior minister would receive the report at 6.30pm and would lay it before the house soon after receiving it. However, when the session was adjourned by the chair at 8.05pm, neither Ms Mazari nor any minister was present in the assembly.

Take a look: What the Sahiwal shooting tells us about police culture

A member of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) from Sahiwal, Rai Murtaza Iqbal, termed the incident a “test case” for the government of his own party, suggesting that the PTI government should apologise to the nation and the members of the deceased family over the incident.

“The government as a first step should have admitted that it has failed to protect the lives and apologise to the whole nation and the (affected) family,” Mr Iqbal said, demanding that “either the case be referred to military courts or the accused CTD personnel be tried before a special court to decide the case within two to three months”.

Mr Iqbal said it was a challenge for the PTI government to prevent the country from becoming a “security or a police state”.

Another MNA from Sahiwal, Chaudhry Mohammad Ashraf of the opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), disclosed that the deputy commissioner of the area had confirmed to him that no resistance was offered from the occupants of the car as claimed by the police.

Another PML-N MNA from Vehari, Sajid Mehdi, was of the opinion that after seeing the video clip of the incident, there was no need for formation of the JIT. He asked Prime Minister Imran Khan and Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar to visit the house of the affected family and tender apology. He regretted that on one hand, the PTI members were shedding tears on the incident and on the other, they were defending the culprits.

Pakistan Peoples Party stalwart Syed Khursheed Shah alleged that the Punjab government was “completely involved” in the incident. He expressed his surprise over the Pun­jab government’s decision to pay Rs20 million compensation to the family, after declaring them terrorists.

“Had it ever happened that a terro­rist was paid Rs20 million?” he asked.

Mr Shah said a parliamentary committee be formed to carry out investigations and see as to who had actually provided information to the CTD officials who carried out this operation.

PPP’s Nawab Yousuf Talpur questioned as to why the CTD abandoned the bodies at the site, if they were terrorists?

The most hard-hitting and emotional speech of the day was delivered by PPP MNA and PTI dissident Naz Baloch, who asked both the prime minister and the chief minister to step down after taking responsibility of the incident. “Please return our old Pakistan. We don’t want your Naya Pakistan,” Ms Baloch said, while condemning the Sahiwal incident.

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