LAHORE: Justice Baqir Najfi commission, while terming the June 2014 tragedy in Lahore’s Model Town as the “most unfortunate incident” in the country’s history, said that police tried to cover up the facts regarding who gave orders to open fire on protesters, according to the commission report released Tuesday.
The Government of Punjab, following orders by the Lahore High Court, on Tuesday released the Justice Baqir Najfi commission report on Model Town incident.
The incident on June 17, 2014, had claimed lives of at least 14 people and left over 100 others injured during an ‘anti-encroachment operation’ by Punjab Police outside Idara Minhajul Quran in Lahore’s Model Town.
The report states that Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) chief Tahirul Qadri announced a long march from Rawalpindi to Lahore on June 23, 2014. Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah said they would not let Qadri achieve his objectives.
Authorities at a meeting on June 16, 2014, decided on immediate action for removal of barriers around Idara Minhajul Quran, it mentions and adds that CCPO Lahore and Secretary to CM Dr Tauqeer Shah, in all fairness, consented to the decision.
It further that mentions the Lahore commissioner presented a report to participants pertaining to illegalities in placing of barriers and their erection on the road [around Idara Minhajul Quran], which were considered and treated as encroachments, therefore, the meeting decided to remove them with immediate effect.
The report added that no legal opinion was sought from the Punjab advocate general prior to the start of the operation.
“Such facts and circumstances under which the meeting was held led to the most unfortunate incident in the history of Pakistan,” stated the inquiry commission report.
It says the participants of the meeting were aware of the Lahore High Court verdict in 2011.
The commission further mentioned in its report that Punjab CM submitted an affidavit stating that he came to know of the incident on the morning of June 17.
“According to the chief minister, he came to know about the “stand-off” at 9am in the morning, through the TV and about the decision from his then secretary, thereafter, he immediately passed the verbal order to ‘disengage’ which was statedly communicated to the law minister by 10am.”
The commission also stated that on the ground, the standoff continued the whole night, resulting in minor injuries to police constables as well as PAT workers.
It was after 9am that the DIG Operation arrived at the site, who called the SPs of different divisions of Lahore, and a result the policemen started increasing in response to the swelling up of the PAT activists.
“At 11 am, the DIG convened on-spot meeting in which decision was made to call the Elite Force and then move forward towards the Idara. There are both video clippings as well as snaps showing direct fire shots towards the PAT activists. At about 12:00, the bodies as well as the injured were started coming to Jinnah Hospital. At about 1:30pm the barriers were removed from and around the Idara. The police reported 9 deaths and 54 injured at the time.”
“Admittedly, such a level of offensive by police by any stretch of imagination did not commensurate with the level of resistance by unarmed PAT workers,” the commission said in its conclusion.
The commission observed in its report: “The level of cooperation in digging out the truth is that no police official from top to bottom, whether actively participated in the operation or not, did utter a single word about the person under whose command the police resorted to firing upon the PAT workers.”
It added, “Understandably, all were in unison in withholding the information from this tribunal.”
The tribunal further said that “it would not restrain itself in expressing that the act of Government not to empower the tribunal….regarding an investigation of any matter coming before it is also a bad one, which the tribunal considers as the circumstances to circumvent the process of digging out the truth”.
Further, in its conclusion, the commission said, “It is shocking to note that everyone has deliberately but unsuccessfully tried to cover each other from possibly adverse legal effetcs.”
The report says: “The actions of police of firing and severely beating people on the crime scene is irrefutably suggestive that the police did exactly for which they were sent and gathered over there.”
“The police and all other concerned, without any exception, abetted being desperado, performed daredevil acts, which resulted into irreparable loss.”
The Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), in its report submitted to the tribunal, did not confirm that the report that security guard stationed at the post established on the roof top of [Dr Tahirul Qadri’s] house also fired a single shot due to which police retreated.
The commission said, “The ISI categorically mentioned in its report that during the assault the police also resorted to aimed fire which resulted into 10 deaths and over 70 others were injured, out of which 51 sustained bullet injuries.”
In its report, the Intelligence Bureau (IB) said, “It was reported that at about 9:00am – 9:30am on June 17, 2014, the police made another attempt while using tear gas, etc. to advance toward Minhajul Quran Secretariat and when this section of police reached near the secretariat, a guard manning the post on first floor of the terrace of Tahirul Qadri’s house opened straight fire which left two policemen injured.
The news spread among police that some policemen were killed by PAT workers, it said. “At this, the police contingents advanced and the sympathisers of PAT/TMQ started pelting stones at police.
“The police as retaliation resorted to firing towards protesters/agitators leaving many persons injured at the site of the incident, some of them succumbed to their injuries afterwards.