Killing hostage judges in Sialkot prison: SC wants police top brass sent off duty
* Bench says serving DIG, DPOs may tamper with evidence
* Orders review of interim bail on January 10
By Mohammad Kamran
ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Thursday directed the assistant advocate general of Punjab, Afshan Ghazanfar, to seek the suspension of all the high-ranking police officers accused in the killing of four hostage judges at Sialkot prison and presently serving in uniform despite being on interim bail.
“The accused police officials should be suspended so that they cannot tamper with evidence,” said Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry while presiding over a full bench. Justice Iftikhar said for the officers to be still serving was a mockery of the judicial system.
Seventeen officials including Malik M Iqbal, deputy inspector general of police (DIG) Gujranwala; Amjad Javed, district police officer (DPO) Sialkot, Raja Munawwar, DPO Gujrat; Dr Firdous Shah, ex-medical superintendent; Dr Sajid Hussain and some officials of the Elite Force are on interim bail granted by the Lahore High Court. The bail issue has been set before a division bench of the high court for January 10.
The bench directed the high court and the registrar of the Supreme Court to settle the bail issue at the January 10 hearing and asked for the confirmation of its directive’s compliance on January 18 in the Supreme Court.
The bench also directed the advocate general to write to the chief minister and other provincial authorities recommending the suspension of the accused police officers.
The directive was given in response to a bail application submitted by Sikander Hayat, the serving jail superintendent at the time of the judges’ death. The bench also took up another petition filed by the father of Sheharyar Bokhari, one of the deceased civil judges. He had challenged the prolonged period of interim bail granted to the accused police officers.
The four civil judges were killed after being taken hostage by prisoners at Sialkot Jail on July 25, 2003. On the date, District and Sessions Judge Chaudhry Zafar Hussain had taken a team of civil judges and judicial magistrates to the prison to hear complaints from prisoners. On their return from the women’s prisons, prisoners Ashfaque, Ijaz, Shahbaz, Muhammad Rafique and Muneer began shooting at Judge Hussain and took the other judges hostage in the barracks at about 10:30 am.
The captors demanded the release of some of their fellow prisoners. Consequently, negotiations between the jail administration and the prisoners continued fruitlessly till 6 in the evening. The administration then resorted to a recovery operation. Both the sides exchanged fire and as a result judges Sagheer Ahmed, Asif Mumtaz Cheema and Shahid Muneer Ranjha were killed whereas Sheharyar Bokhari, Sabtain Raza and Javed Iqbal were seriously injured. Later Sheharyar died of his injuries in the hospital. The five captors were killed in the operation.
Justice Sheikh Abdul Rasheed, a high court judge and then registrar of the Lahore High Court, conducted an inquiry into the incident but his report was never made public.
Syed Ghulam Abbas Bokari, father of deceased judge Sheharyar Bokhari told Daily Times that all the accused in this case were granted bail by the judge of the trial court but when he challenged this course of action in the high court, a division bench comprising Justice Khawaja Muhammad Sharif and Justice Ch Iftikhar Hussain cancelled the bail of three of the accused but another division bench comprising Justice Shaikh Abdul Rasheed and Justice M Bilal, granted interim bail to many high-ranking police officials.
He contended in his petition that according to the principle laid down in the M Zubair case, if a bail matter was disposed of by a division bench then all the entailing bail applications would be put before the same bench. He added that in this case, the bail cases of the senior police officials were put before another bench, ostensibly with ulterior motive.