Lahore: Sialkot shootout: Appellants say judges were killed in a planned operation
LAHORE: Accusing the police of deliberately killing hostage judges in the Sialkot Jail shootout, counsel for the deceased judges’ families told a division bench of the Lahore High Court on Thursday that the police had launched a “killing operation” instead of a rescue operation. The bench headed by Justice Mazhar Iqbal Sidhu is hearing appeals against the acquittal of police officers in a shootout at the Sialkot District Jail on July 25, 2003, where four judges of lower judiciary and five prisoners-cum-captors were killed. Another judge was injured.
Advocate Ghulam Abad Bukhari, counsel for the appellants, said that the police did not allow enough time for negotiations for the safe release of the judges. They had also taken some women prisoners hostage.
Serving jail terms in various cases of kidnap for ransom and robbery, the armed prisoners had taken the judges hostage when they were visiting the jail on their monthly judicial inspection. The prisoners wanted their freedom in return for the release of the judges.
They had also demanded that the police provide them with kalashnikovs and free their family members, who had been arrested to pressure the captors to release the hostages.
Had the police met their demands, Advocate Bukhari said, the hostages could have been saved.
He said instead of holding talks with the captors, the police initiated an operation which resulted in the deaths of nine people.
He said the then station house officer Zulfiqar Virk concerned provoked the captors by hurling abuse at them before the operation.
He also accused a Dr Firdous of being responsible for the death of Judge Syed Shehryar Bokhari, who was injured in the shootout. He said the doctor was busy giving protocol to the then inspector general of police and could therefore not give the proper first aid to the injured judge.
Former Sialkot deputy inspector general Malik Mohammad Iqbal, Sialkot District Police Officer (DPO) Amjad Javeed Saleemi, Gujrat DPO Raja Munawar Hussain, Sialkot Superintendent of Police Sikandar Hayat and Allama Iqbal Memorial Hospital Sialkot surgeon Dr Sajid Hussain are among the 23 accused of complicity in the deaths.
The appeal was jointly moved by the families of the deceased judges Bokhari, Asif Mumtaz Ahmad Cheema, Sagheer Anwar and Shahid Munir Ranjha.
The incident took place when a team of judicial officers headed by Sialkot Additional District and Sessions Judge Chaudhry Zafar Hussain was visiting the district jail on July 25, 2003. Some prisoners had opened fire at them and held four judges and five women prisoners hostage. The women were taken back into police custody after the shootout.
An anti–terrorism court on December 23, 2006 acquitted 23 accused. ASP Raja Mushtaq Ahmad and warden Muhammad Hafeez were convicted and imprisoned.