“A relative cries as a man carries the body of a child, who was among those killed by security forces last month, to a burial site in Quetta June 12, 2011. A Pakistan provincial government on last month ordered an inquiry into the killing by security forces of five Chechens, including three women, after the media said they had been unarmed. The group was killed last month, with authorities saying they were al-Qaeda-linked suicide bombers” REUTERS
We may never know exactly what happened at Kharotabad but it is already quite clear that the official version of events was so distorted that it bore no relation to reality. The original story, that five foreigners were killed because they were potential suicide bombers, has now been thoroughly dismantled. The latest piece of evidence comes from a key witness of the government version, the driver who was accompanying the foreigners. He had earlier told the tribunal investigating the matter that the foreigners were armed. He now says he had been threatened by the police into saying that.
This is only the latest piece of proof to show that the police have played fast and loose with the truth. The statements of other eye witnesses have been conflicting, while the bomb-disposal squad and post-mortem reports on the bodies of the foreigners show that they were not carrying explosives or wearing suicide vests, which has nullified the claim that they were suicide bombers and needed to be killed immediately. Even more bizarrely, the superintendent of police, the senior-most police official at the scene, told the tribunal that he could not identify which policemen were the shooters since his eyesight was too weak. The Balochistan Assembly speaker has already promised that the perpetrators of the shooting and cover-up will be punished once the tribunal completes its investigation. And it is to the credit of the tribunal that it has not shied away from the truth, even when it casts the police in a very unflattering light. The inquiry into the Kharotabad incident looks to be one of the few occasions where public malfeasance is actually acknowledged and punished. This is a victory in itself but we need to aim higher. Such inquiries need to become the norm. The brutal murder of Sarfaraz Shah by Rangers’ personnel needs to be pursued equally vigorously. And justice in such cases needs to go beyond punishment and include reform.
(Published in “Express Tribune” on June 14, 2011)