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A teenager falsely branded a Taliban and shot dead in a staged encounter - A human rights defender's life under threat for exposing such encounters

Pakistan on 24 July 2014
Location : Pakistan | Source : AHRC. Image Source: flickr user dying regime

Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information that a 17 year old boy -  a Sindhi national - had  been arrested, illegally detained  for eleven days, tortured in full view of his father demanding a huge sum of money  and later shot dead by the Police on the pretext of the boy being a member of Taliban.   According to information received, the boy had been tortured by the police officers at the Sachal Police Station in Karachi, demanding a huge sum of money from his parents in return for his release. The father having no means to pay the amount of money had instead,  made arrangements to pay only a portion of the demand - ten percent – which had agitated the Station House Officer of the police as being an insult and had led to the boy being shot dead.  According to his father, the enraged police officer had taken the boy and three other young men, to an Afghan refugee camp in the late hours of the day  and shot him, point blank, killing the boy on the spot. The police had later released a statement saying that the killing had taken place in a skirmish with Taliban forces and that explosives were recovered from their possession, following the incident.

The murder of this innocent boy, has yet again revealed to the world the nexus that prevails in Pakistan between the police and the Courts of law, and the failure to follow the due process of law as the Sessions Court failed to save the young boy while he was being held in police custody, when the father moved the court to intervene in the release of his son. Critics blame the newly enacted Pakistan Protection Act of 2014, which gives sweeping powers of arrest and detention to law enforcement agencies, to the extent of giving them powers to shoot on sight.

The AHRC has received information that the Sachal Police Station in particular had made announcements that any political activist or human rights defender  who is interested in following-up evens of this incident - the staged encounter with the Taliban in order to kill a young and innocent boy - would be severely dealt with and even shot dead on sight.

CASE NARRATIVE:

Mr. Anisur Rehman Soomro the son of Mr. Anwer Soomro, 17 years old and a student of 10th grade was arrested by Sachalgoth Karachi Police in Karachi, Sindh Province on 12th June 2014  along with two friends at Marroora Chowk, near Chapal Sun City, Safoora Goth, Gulistane Johar, Karachi in plain view of the public  including a family member – his uncle -  who had been present at the time.

Following his arrest, the boy's father Anwer Soomro had continuously visited the Sachal Police Station from the 12th to the 16th of June 2014, to demand explanations as to the reasons for the arrest of his son and his friends and demanded to know why his son was being illegally detained and being tortured every night. During one such visit, Inspector Ismail Lashari had demanded the boy's father, for 500,000 Pak Rupees (appox.US$5,000) as a bribe, to be used during the upcoming festive season.  The father of the boy not being able to afford to pay such a huge sum of money had offered to give the police around 50,000 Rupees instead (Aprx 500 US$) which money too he had found with the greatest difficulty. This offer had been rebuffed by the police and had demanded that nothing less than US$ 1200 would suffice to secure the boy's release. The boy's father was eventually unable to secure this demand. According to the boy's father, Station House Officer (SHO) Sub Inspector Ismail Lashari, Assistant Sub Inspector (ASI) Mukhtiar Mangi, ASI Khalid Bhatti and Contable Shabir Khoso had thereafter, continuously refused to release the boy – and further demanded Pak. Rs.125,000 for his release.

According to witness records, the police officers named above, have repeatedly threatened Anwer Soomro, the boy's father, in presence of many persons at the police station saying that if he fails to arrange the bribe money, the boy will be killed in a 'police encounter'. The two other young boys had been later released after they had paid the demanded amount of monies as bribes to the police. However Anis's father was unable to secure the bribe.

Following the failure to pay the bribe, police have denied Anwer Soomro access to his son who on his last visit had been tortured in his presence, inside the cell. He had heard his son crying in pain from the ordeal.  Unable to bear the situation Anwer Soomro had filed a petition in the Session Court in Malir, Karachi, on 20th June 2014, against illegal confinement of Anis Soomro – his son. He had informed the Court that the Police have threatened to kill his son if he cannot pay the bribe they demanded.  Following the hearing, the Session Judge had made order for Court officials to investigate the matter. According to information received when Court officials raided the Sachal Police Station , the young boy Anis was not found, at the police station. It is suspected that the police have hidden him in a different location.

Thus, the boy had been detained and tortured for 10 days, at the  Sachal police station and on the 22nd of June 2014 he had been taken out of the police station dragged to near a refugee camp for Afghan nationals and killed , claiming he was killed as part of an operation against a group of Taliban militants.  He had been shot dead by the police near an Afghan refugee camp in the jurisdiction of Sohrab Goth Karachi – in order to depict him as an Afghan refugee. The same night police had issued a statement that a member of the Taliban had been killed in a skirmish, According to his family , young Anis, a 10th grader is a Sindhi national and had never in his life been involved with any religious militant group. Following the statement all television channels in Pakistan aired the Police press release of young Anis being killed along with three other young men and made to look like they were Taliban militants.

The father after receiving the news, on 23rd June 2014, along with hundreds of workers led by   Jeay Sindh Tahreek and  prominent human rights defender, Suhail Abro had taken to the streets in vehement protest and had marched to the Edhi Center in Karachi which is a  charitable organisations providing mortuary services and had demanded for Anis's body. These demands have been refused and they were asked to provide a letter from the Police in order to release the body. AHRC has learnt that officials of the Sohrab Goth Police station have refused to issue such a letter ordering the release the body following which crowds gathered there have staged a sit in protest blocking the Main Road in Sohrab Goth.  This protest had prompted police to issue the letter for the release of Anis's body.

However family members and the  Jeay Sindh Tahreek  headed by  Suhail Abro, continued to protest near the University Road, blocking the main road  with young Anis's body at the site and demanded swift justice and an impartial judicial investigation into this incident of extra judicial murder of 17 year old,  Anis Soomro.

Police however have instead instituted a case against Suhail Abro and on several subsequent occasions SHO Ismail Lashari has raided his residence, following the protest. The Sachal police station has ordered the arrest and to shoot to kill,  Suhail Abro, for exposing this incident of extra judicial killing of the young boy.  AHRC has learnt that police have also communicated to shopkeepers and vendors in the area to immediately inform the police if they sight, Mr. Abro anywhere in the vicinity. We have received information that Suhail had also received messages from police officials on his cell phone that they will teach him a lesson and that he also will be killed in a similar encounter as young Anis.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:

Following the enactment of the Pakistan Protection Ordinance in October 2013, which has now been amended July 2014 as the Pakistan Protection Act 2014 (PPA), law enforcement agencies particularly the Police and Pakistan Rangers have been vested with powers of extra judicial nature, with power to even shoot to kill any person they deem necessary. Although according to provisions of the Act this power can only be exercised with the sanction of the government for officers above Grade 15 , the approval is never taken in practice. It has now become the common practice to stage fake encounters in order to kill innocent victims. Since the commencement of the Karachi operation, more than 200  persons have been killed in such similar staged encounters by the police with absolute impunity.

SUGGESTED ACTION:

Please write the letters to the authorities calling them to hold an impartial inquiry in these incident of extra judicial killing of 17 year old  Anisur Rehman on the pretext of declaring him a member of the Taliban.  Please urge them to prosecute the SHO and other officials of the Sachal police station, Karachi, for illegally detaining a minor for more 10 days, torturing him and for extracting bribes from innocent residents and for the cold blooded murder of the young boy. All those involved in the murder including SHO Lashari must be brought to justice. Please also urge them to provide security to human rights defender, Mr. Suhail Abro, who is being hunted down to be killed for staging a protest against the extra judicial murder of the young boy.

The AHRC writes a separate letter to the UN Special Rapporteurs on the extra judiciall killing and Human Rights Defender calling for their intervention into this matter.

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