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21 Jan, 2019 13:48

Massive backlash after Pakistani officers gun down family incl. 13yo girl in ‘counterterrorism act’

Massive backlash after Pakistani officers gun down family incl. 13yo girl in ‘counterterrorism act’

Over a dozen members of a police counterterrorism unit were arrested in Pakistan after footage, which showed officers riddling a car with bullets and killing four people including a teenage girl, surfaced online sparking protests.

Pakistan’s Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) initially said the killings in Sahiwal, a city in a in Punjab Province, were lawful and happened after suspected terrorists opened fire at officers trying to apprehend him. But a video of the incident, which tells a different story, sparked outrage and made the incident a major national scandal in Pakistan.

The four people killed by the CTD on Saturday were identified as Mohammad Khalil, an owner of a grocery store, his wife Nabia, their daughter Areeba and a family friend, Zeeshan Javed. The car, driven by Javed, was stopped by police who claim they were acting on a tip from an intelligence agency which stated that the man was a jihadist loyal to the terrorist group Islamic State.

The police initially said that Javed was a trained terrorist, who used the family as human shields and opened fire at the officers, who returned fire and killed everyone in the car.

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Witnesses said police chased the car, rammed it from behind and forced it to stop. They then removed three small children from the vehicle, taking them to a police van, and gunned down the people remaining inside.

Footage of the incident, filmed by a bystander, supports the eyewitness accounts. Relatives of both men killed in the incident denied either of them had any ties to jihadists.

The video quickly went viral, was broadcast by the Pakistani media and resulted in a public outcry. Hundreds of people, including relatives of the slain family, took to the streets of Sahiwal to denounce the CTD. The crowds blocked a major road, but several hours later agreed to leave after police talked to the protesters.

Many others went to social media to express their anger and demand justice for the victims. Prime Minister Imran Khan wrote in a tweet that he was “shocked” by the incident and promised swift action and profound police reform in the province.

More than a dozen CTD officers were reportedly arrested as the investigation into the incidents geared up on Sunday.

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