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SC orders action against Punjab police hierarchy

ISLAMABAD: Frustrated with a new twist given by police to the case of lynching of a poor woman in Khanewal, the Supreme Court gave the federal as well as Punjab governments on Monday three days to take appropriate action against the entire provincial police hierarchy or face an adverse order.

“It is the duty of the executive government to move forward and ensure enforcement of the fundamental rights including security of the citizen,” Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry observed while dictating an order after lengthy proceedings on the barbaric incident.

“We are of the opinion that the police officers including the Inspector General to DAG, DPO to SHO don’t deserve to occupy such important positions of enforcing the law,” the order said. Had the IG or the DPO realised the seriousness of the crime they would have timely rushed to the crime scene, it said.

A three-judge bench comprising the chief justice, Justice Jawwad S. Khwaja and Justice Khilji Arif Hussain had taken notice of the stoning to death of the woman at Chak 15 in Kacha Koh, about 12km from Khanewal.

Maryam Bibi, 35, a mother of five, was cutting grass in the fields of local landlord Raja Mehbub who reportedly forced her to submit to his sexual advances. When she refused, the landlord levelled allegations against the woman and took the matter to a local Panchayat (council of elders) which ordered that the woman be stoned to death. The order was carried out in her home in the wee hours of July 18.

Her husband Sarfraz was abducted, but later recovered. Conflicting reports were given by police about the place where he was found.

On Monday, the entire team of senior police officers headed by Inspector General of Punjab Haji Habibur Rehman and other officers from DAG to DPO appeared before the court and took the plea that a fresh investigation had revealed that Maryam’s husband had killed her with bricks.

Not amused by the story, the Supreme Court read out the entire FIR, supplementary reports and other relevant documents to establish that even Sarfraz Ahmed, the husband, and the doctors who had conducted the autopsy did not corroborate with what police were saying. “Plea being raised by police that Sarfraz has confessed is absolutely incorrect,” the order said.

During the proceedings, Mohammad Siddiq, father of Sarfraz, who came to court along with children of Maryam, rejected in a choked voice the allegations levelled by police against his son.

“These facts prima facie indicates that the serious crime of stoning (to death) has not been dealt with fairly nor the background of the case has been taken seriously,” the judgment said. “Such attitude sends a negative message and shakes the confidence of the citizens who believe in the rule of law.”

The court recalled that in a case relating to the killing of a youth, Sarfraz Shah, by the Rangers in Karachi in 2011, not only the Sindh IG but also the DG Rangers who was an army general had been transferred.

In compliance with the last court orders, Advocate General of Punjab Ashtar Ausaf had brought the incident to the notice of the chief minister. However, Deputy Attorney General Shafi Chandio could not communicate it to the prime minister.

The court asked the federal and provincial governments to take appropriate actions against the police officers in three days and convey the decision to the registrar or the Supreme Court would issue an order in this regard.

The new officers whenever appointed to replace the present police team will resume investigations independently. The court also ordered the IG and PPO to provide protection to the family of Sarfraz.