Sunday, 29 November 2009

Police constables gun down Baloch youth in Karachi

Open in new windowKARACHI: Police on Friday shot dead a youth, who had no criminal background, in a Ranchhore Line locality apparently in an attempt to enforce a ban on pillion-riding.

Police said that the deceased, Arif Baloch, was riding a motorcycle along with his pillion passenger, Kashif, in the Ranchhore Line area.

Two policemen of the Garden police station, also on a motorcycle, found them violating the pillion-riding ban and signalled them to stop, but Arif Baloch tried to speed away, they added.

According to the police, the chasing policemen got the youths near the congested Eidgah Chowk. ‘The policemen shouted several times asking them to stop, but they didn’t pay any heed and all of a sudden a single shot was fired by one of the policemen.’

A bullet from the official AK-47 Kalashnikov rifle of Constable Akhtar Nawaz hit 27-year-old Arif, a resident of Lyari, in the abdomen. He died on the spot. His body was taken to the Civil Hospital Karachi (CHK).

However, sources in the medico-legal section of the CHK told Dawn that the victim was shot from pointblank range.

The police version was also at odd variance with the account related by the victim’s pillion passenger, Kashif, who told Dawn that his friend was shot dead by police at pointblank range.

‘Arif Baloch had been suffering from a kidney-related disease and I used to take him to the Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation,’ he said after the victim was laid to rest in the Mewashah graveyard.

As a matter of course, Kashif said, they were returning from the health facility and Arif was driving the bike when the two policemen intercepted them near Eidgah.

‘We were confident that we enjoyed exemption from the pillion-riding ban because of Arif’s health condition, but the policemen initiated an argument and, all of a sudden, one of them asked us to put up our hands and fired a shot.’

A cloth trader in the Eidgah market, Kashif said he saw red and grabbed Constables Shahzad Ahmed and Akhtar Nawaz.

The scuffle drew the attention of the passers-by who overpowered the law-enforcers and gave them a hiding before putting them in an auto-rickshaw so that they could be taken to their high-ups at the Eidgah police station. They also set fire to the policemen’s motorcycle.

‘Arif Baloch died on the spot,’ he said. ‘When the two policemen were being taken in the rickshaw, they tried to escape but a large number of people following them did not allow this to happen,’ he added.

A police patrol team rescued their two colleagues by firing into the air to disperse the charged crowd.

However, the protesters blocked the main road connecting the Eidgah Chowk with other city thoroughfares including M.A. Jinnah Road. Vehicular traffic remained suspended on the road as the protesters lit bonfires.

A heavy contingent of police arrived at the scene to maintain law and order. However, the protesters demanded the arrest of the policemen upon which senior police officials decided to arrest Constable Akhtar Nawaz, who actually fired at the victim.

The torched bike was owned by Constable Shahzad Ahmed. The police did not find any weapon from the possession of the deceased who had no criminal record.

Although the police authorities ordered registration of a murder case under Section 302 of the Pakistan Penal Code against Constable Akhtar Nawaz at the Eidgah police station, they maintained that the facts of the incidents needed to be examined before reaching any conclusion.

‘No criminal record of deceased Arif was found…the police did not recover any arm or illegal thing from his possession,’ said Saddar Town SP Abdullah Sheikh. ‘However, there are a few things, as claimed by the two policemen, which are needed to be investigated.’

Citing the initial statement of the two policemen, he said that the two youths violated the pillion-riding ban, did not stop on police orders, ran into a commercial area and finally when they were almost caught, the motorcyclist tried to hit the policemen’s bike due to which both bikes fell down.

‘In the process Akhtar Nawaz’s rifle went off accidentally and the bullet hit Arif,’ said SSP Sheikh.

‘But we are not depending on any statement to arrive at any decision as senior investigators will probe into the case with all honesty following all legal formalities.’

A resident of Singo Lane in Lyari and the eldest among three brothers and seven sisters, Arif was the only breadwinner of the family and was an auto-rickshaw driver by profession.

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