LAHORE: An anti-terrorism court (ATC) in Lahore on Thursday acquitted all the suspects involved in the Sahiwal encounter on the basis of the benefit of the doubt.
suspects Safdar Hussain, Ahsan Khan, Ramzan, Saifullah, Hasnain and Nasir Nawaz appeared before the Anti-Terrorism Court Number 1 Judge Arshad Hussain Bhutta.
The court dismissed the statements given by 49 witnesses including the victim Zeeshan’s brother Ehtisham. The victim Khalil’s children and his brother also recorded statements during today’s proceedings. The witnesses refused to identify the suspects before the court.
The court issued its verdict after holding hearings for the case for nine months.
On January 19, the Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) claimed that the local commander of militant organisation, Daesh, and three others, including two women, were killed in an operation near GT Road.
According to a CTD spokesperson, “four people, including two women and Daesh local commander Zeeshan, have been killed and one child has been injured in the cross-fire.” The suspects were kidnappers and three children were recovered, police said.
“Three terrorists managed to escape and have been identified as Shahid Jabbar, Abdul Rehman and their accomplice,” the spokesperson added.
According to the spokesperson, “A CTD team tried to intercept a car and motorcycle near the toll plaza, however, the people in the car starting firing at them.”
Eyewitnesses conflicted the CTD’s statements and said the people in the car did not fire at officials. “There were no weapons found with the bodies,” they said.
A Joint Investigative Team under DIG Zulfiqar Hameed was formed to investigate the alleged shootout. The JIT included the members of ISI, MI and IB.
But when the families of the victims showed dissatisfaction with the JIT, the Lahore High Court (LHC), on February 14, ordered judicial investigation to be conducted.
Subsequently, civil judge-cum-judicial magistrate Shakeel Goraya was appointed by a sessions judge to hold the probe within 30 days.
The statements of 49 people, including eyewitnesses, deceased Khalil’s son Muhammad Ibrahim, the CTD suspects, personnel of the Yousafwala police station, Rescue 1122 and the Bomb Disposal Squad and complainants of both FIRs — one registered at the CTD, Lahore and the other at the Yousafwala police station, Sahiwal were recorded by The Judicial Inquiry Officer (JIO).
Goraya’s JIT affirmed Khalil and family to be innocent while dubbing the driver Zeeshan a terrorist.
On March 3, Shahbaz Gill said the JIT has discarded the CTD claim of crossfire in Sahiwal ‘encounter’ and no proof of existence of suspected motorcyclists was found.
Six CTD officials nominated in the case were presented before the Anti Terrorism Court in Sahiwal on April 04. The suspects filed a plea to remove Section 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) from the first information report (FIR) of the incident which ATC fixed for hearing.