Pak authorities sack influential police officer over lynching

Pak authorities sack influential police officer over lynching 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".