Deadlock persists over Wazirabad incident FIR

The controversy surrounding the first information report (FIR) of a gun attack on ex-premier Imran Khan deepened on Saturday when his party raised questions over alle­ged police reluctance to register their complaint, while the police denied having rec­e­ived any application from party leaders two days after the Wazirabad shooting.

Amid a deadlock between Punjab’s ruling coalition partners — PTI and PML-Q — over the ex-premier’s reported insistence to book a senior army officer, the prime minister and interior minister in the case, rumours had it that the provincial government was going to transfer Inspector General of Police (IGP) Faisal Shahkar over his reluctance in this regard.

Editorial: By going public with his accusations, Imran has taken a step he may find impossible to reverse

A PTI worker died and 14 others, including Mr Khan and PTI leaders, were injured in the firing incident at Wazirabad’s Allah­wala Chowk, where the party’s ‘Haqeeqi Azadi’ march against the federal government had stopped on its way to Islamabad.

While the Punjab Police took into custody at least three suspects linked to the shooting, they denied having received any application from the PTI for an FIR. On the other hand, Mr Khan’s nephew Advocate Hassaan Niazi told Dawn they had submitted the application at the police station, but the personnel did not provide them with any receipt for the same.

He said they “left the application on the table” and came back. Later, he tweeted, “SHO Wazirabad and DPO Wazirabad refuse to even take the application. 48 hours gone. Police refusing to take applications. Telling applicant Zubair Niazi (PTI Lahore General Secretary) to take out that ONE name. They say the crime minister’s name is fine.”

Mr Khan told a presser earlier on Friday that even an FIR was not being registered against the three people who he accused of ‘planning his assassination’. “Until Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah and Maj Gen Naseer resign, no fair investigation can be conducted,” he asserted.

A senior police officer from Islamabad, requesting anonymity, told Dawn that under Article 25 of the Constitution every citizen of the country is equal and a case can be registered against anyone whether he is a serving army officer, civil officer, prime minister or not.

He said the first information report can be registered against anyone on the complaint of a citizen. However, while explaining legal powers of the station house officer, he said the SHO could also hold an inquiry on any complaint before the registration of an FIR.

Since there could also be a ‘fake’ complaint against any citizen, the police officer also had the power to hold an inquiry first and then decide whether to register the case or not, he said. The SHO also had the power to register a case against the complainant if he found his application was ‘fake and frivolous’.

Advocate Safdar Shaheen Pirzada said Section 154 of the criminal procedure code empowered police to register an FIR against any citizen. If a cognizable offence takes place, military officials have no immunity against the registration of a case, according to him.

However, he believed, the investigating officer could hold an inquiry and ask the complainant for ‘incriminating evidence’ to decide whether arrest of a nominated suspect was warranted or not.

Meanwhile, talking to the media, PTI Vice Chairman and former foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi alleged it seemed the hands of some officials were tied and there was some kind of pressure on them to not entertain their application for the Wazirabad attack complaint.

“Since an FIR was not being registered in such a serious case, it has raised a serious question mark,” he said, adding that people were not satisfied with the Punjab police chief’s performance.

It was also the responsibility of the provincial government to investigate the matter and determine if the top police officer was really “helpless”, he added.

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