Pak authorities sack influential police officer over lynching

Last Updated: Monday, August 23, 2010 - 23:24

Lahore: An influential senior Pakistani
police officer was fired today in connection with the public
lynching of two brothers which shocked the nation and prompted
the Supreme Court to take suo moto action.

Zulifqar Cheema, the Regional Police Officer of
Gujranwala division of Punjab province, has been blamed by the
public and media for parading the bodies of criminals killed
by police. Civil society groups said such actions had led to a
mob lynching the two young brothers in Sialkot district on
August 15.

Hafiz Mughees, 21, and Hafiz Muneeb, 16, were going to
visit relatives in Buttar village when some people caught them
and accused them of being robbers. In a brazen display of mob
justice, they killed the brothers by beating them with sticks
and iron rods in the presence of policemen. The mob then hung
up the bodies of the two brothers in a square.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani ordered the
suspension of Sialkot district police chief Waqar Chohan, a
federal government officer on deputation with the Punjab
government, on the recommendation of Chief Minister Shahbaz
Sharif.

A case has been registered against 13 policemen and 17
civilians for their role in the brutal murders and 14 of them
have been arrested.

However, the Punjab government had so far refrained
from taking action against Cheema, considered a "blue-eyed
boy" of the Chief Minister.

There are also reports that Chohan, who was placed
under house arrest for 30 days, has managed to escape.

Cheema had killed several outlaws, including the
notorious Nanu Goraya who was extradited from Malaysia with
the help of Interpol, in "staged" gun battles.

Even Interpol had expressed concern at Pakistani
authorities killing outlaws in "staged shootouts". It had also
said it would not help Pakistani authorities if they kill
criminals in this manner.

After killing criminals, Cheema often had their
bodies paraded in Gujranwala division, apparently to instill
fear among other. He was awarded the Tamga-e-Imtiaz, a top
medal, by the government for his "brave acts".

Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, who has
taken suo moto notice of the lynchings, has said: "Not only it
was the duty of police to stop those who were beating the two
brothers, but the people in the mob should also have shown
moral courage by preventing the beating."

The grandfather of the two brothers said, "Even
butchers do not sacrifice animals in the manner in which these
men killed my grandsons."

Former premier Nawaz Sharif, Interior Minister Rehman
Malik and Punjab Governor Salman Taseer have visited the
bereaved family of the brothers and assured them that justice
would be done.

President Asif Ali Zardari has strongly condemned the
killing of the brothers and called for an inquiry into the
gruesome incident. The presidential spokesman said Zardari was
"upset over the barbaric incident and believed that such acts
of infamy, shame and brutality should not go unpunished".

PTI



First Published: Monday, August 23, 2010 - 23:24

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