After the Supreme Court warned that it would initiate suo motu proceedings if the Punjab police failed to register an FIR regarding the assassination attempt on former prime minister Imran Khan, the provincial police finally registered the case under terrorism charges, with detained suspect Naveed being nominated as the prime accused.
The FIR lodged on the complaint of Sub-Inspector Amir Shahzad at 11:10pm on Monday under Section 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act, and Section 302, 324, and 440 of the Pakistan Penal Code was registered after a delay of three days.
Even though the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chief accused Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah, and a senior intelligence officer Major General Faisal Naseer of the alleged conspiracy to kill him, the FIR did not mention any of these names.
The senior government and military men were nominated in an application filed by a PTI leader, Zubair Khan Niazi, for the registration of the case.
According to events that transpired before the registration of the case, the applicant and the police staff locked horns over the generation of an e-tag for the application. A police official who shared the details with Dawn said the staff refused to issue the e-tag without receiving the copy of the application and the contents it was carrying.
The applicant was hesitating to drop it at the front desk of the police station saying that his political party leadership wanted to keep the contents of the application secret due to the sensitivity of the matter, the official added. The issue remained unresolved until the police registered the FIR on the complaint of a sub-inspector, he added.
The FIR came after IGP Faisal Shahkar in line with the directives of the apex court ordered the Gujrat district police officer (DPO) to lodge the case so a copy of the FIR could be submitted to the SC today. He also conveyed to the DPO the decision of Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial who had ordered him to register the case within 24 hours. “The DPO had been conveyed to act as per law as per directions of the SC,” Mr Shahkar said.
‘Register in 24 hours’
Earlier in the day, the Supreme Court took exception to the delay in the registration of the FIR and directed the IGP to register the case within 24 hours if he did not want to face suo motu proceedings over the matter.
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The apex court made these remarks during a contempt case against the PTI chairman over the May 25 violence and the alleged violation of an undertaking given to the court by the PTI. However, the proceedings ended up with the court issuing directions over multiple issues, including the assassination bid on Imran Khan, alleged political interference in the Punjab police, the Azam Swati case, and Arshad Sharif’s murder probe.
“Can’t you see this is an assassination attempt against a national leader,” observed Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial with a direction that the provincial police will report to the Supreme Court in writing about the registration of the FIR and subsequent measures taken regarding the investigation.
At the outset of the hearing, the court asked PTI’s counsel Salman Akram Raja to approach the rostrum and acknowledged that he had a valid reason for seeking time for furnishing a detailed reply on behalf of Imran Khan.
The CJ said the assassination attempt on Mr Khan was “very distressing” but also noted that the PTI chairman had been discharged from the hospital. The case will be taken up next week. The counsel expressed the hope that he may sit with his client on Thursday to seek fresh instructions and finalise the reply.
In response to an observation by the CJ about the delay in the FIR registration, Mr Raja said that he had been told that the concerned police station was reluctant. “No FIR means no investigation,” CJP said, adding even the evidence could be altered due to the delay.
Giving reasons for the delay, Punjab IG Shahkar who joined the proceedings via video link from Lahore said that as per the concerned district police officer (DPO), no formal complaint has been received by the police. The IG claimed that he had also discussed the matter with Chief Minister Parvez Elahi but the CM had “some reservations over the content of the FIR”.
The provincial government has certain views on the matter but such views cannot override the views of the police, the CJP said, adding whatever the case may be, the investigation must move forward. “We will take interest and see that this is done,” CJ Bandial said, adding the court will support the police in all lawful actions.
The government acts on its own but no one will be allowed to interfere in the police work either, the CJP observed. He told the IG that this “court will interfere in their work if someone interferes in his work”. Also, look at the medical reports, Justice Bandial told the police chief while postponing further proceedings for a week.
Moonis hits back
The son of Punjab CM, Moonis Elahi, reacted strongly to the claims made by the Punjab IG and said the police chief was stopping from registering the case by “unknown persons” — a euphemism for establishment.
In another tweet, the PML-Q leader took a jibe at the IG and said, “Police were stopped from registering the FIR on the complaint of the police and as per wishes of the police.”