Death in custody
THERE are conflicting claims regarding the death in an alleged encounter on Tuesday of Azizullah Janwari, the prime suspect in last month’s armed attack on a PPP meeting in Khairpur. A number of people were killed in that incident. The suspect was held in a police lock-up near Sukkur after being arrested from Bahawalpur. The police claim members of the suspect’s community tried to free him from detention, which resulted in a shootout with the law-enforcers. However, Mr Janwari’s clansmen have alleged that the suspect was eliminated in a staged encounter. Several questions about the ‘encounter’ need to be answered, namely how come the injured attackers managed to flee and no police officers were injured in the ‘shootout.’ Also, serious allegations — reported in a section of the media — that a ruling party lawmaker wanted the suspect killed in an encounter need to be addressed by the government. Considering that elections are close, it is essential that this case is investigated to unearth exactly who attacked the PPP meeting and why, as well as the circumstances behind the suspect’s death in custody.
Custodial and extrajudicial deaths are unfortunately quite common in Pakistan. One of the main reasons for this is that the legal system has failed to deliver. Since the courts take too long to try suspects or free them on bail, eliminating ‘troublesome’ suspects through encounters is seen as an easy solution by the law-enforcers. This is totally unacceptable. As stated countless times, the system of investigation and prosecution needs to be overhauled while the culture of tolerating — or even encouraging, as it has been alleged — extralegal killings by the police must be done away with. It is for the courts to decide who is guilty and who should be punished. Condoning extrajudicial and custodial killings will further speed up our descent into lawlessness.