On the 4th day of Holy month of Ramadan a mob in Sialkot mercilessly lynched two young brothers, 15-year-old Hafiz Mughees and 19-year-old Hafiz Muneeb, who were alleged to be robbers (later on proved that they were not). Local people beat them with sticks and metallic rods for hours and let them bleed and die on the road.
The dead bodies were dragged and later hanged upside down at the nearby roundabout.
Shocking video footage of the lynching of two youths by a mob in the presence of policemen in Pakistan's central Punjab province has prompted the Supreme Court Chief Justice to order authorities to take stern action against the killers.
Civil society groups and the media have expressed concern about the incident that occurred in Sialkot district on August 15, saying it reflected the "growing intolerance" in Pakistani society.
Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry took suo moto notice of the incident after TV news channels beamed footage of the youths – Hafiz Mughees, 21, and his brother Hafiz Muneeb, 16 – being beaten to death by a group of men armed with sticks and rods.
Sialkot district police chief Waqar Chauhan, eight other policemen and hundreds of people watched the lynching.The video aired by news channels showed that the youths were hit repeatedly by some men.
The mob later hung the bodies of the brothers upside down in a square.
According to a First Information Report filed by police, the brothers were going to meet their relatives in Buttar village when some people caught them and accused them of being robbers.In a brazen display of mob justice, they tortured the brothers, killed them and then hung their bodies and tried to burn them.
The family of the youths has demanded justice and stern legal action against police officials who failed to rescue the brothers.The family said the youths were killed in the wake of a dispute over a cricket match they played some time ago.The Deputy Commissioner of Sialkot said a charged mob killed the two brothers for injuring four people in a dispute over a cricket match.
Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry ordered Anti-Corruption Director General Justice (retired) Kazim Malik to investigate the matter.
"No one will dare to take the law into his own hands if police had the courage and command to eradicate such brutal and inhuman practices from society," Chaudhry said while heading a bench that heard the suo moto case yesterday.The atmosphere in the apex court became tense when the gruesome video of the killing of the brothers was shown in the courtroom.
When district police chief Chauhan informed the court that Station House Officer Rana Mohammed Ilyas had been arrested but the killers were yet to be detained, the Chief Justice said Chauhan deserved to be suspended and sent to jail.
Interior Minister Rehman Malik has said that 14 people including four policemen have been held in the brutal public killing of two brothers in Sialkot.
Addressing the media in Sialkot, Malik said the culprits involved in the heinous crime would be duly punished. He appealed to the citizens of Sialkot to come forward and provide any information they had regarding the incident. He added that authorities have compiled a list of names of those under investigation and the federal government will be providing support in terms of intelligence and logistics as investigations continue.
The prime accused in the lynching of two brothers in Sialkot, SHO Rana Ilyas, managed to evade custody on Saturday and is currently at large. Ilyas, who fled from the office of the DSP Sialkot, was brought to the office so that he could be produced before a court for a judicial remand. The District Coordination Officer (DCO) Sialkot, Mujahid Sher Dil, has confirmed that the lynched youths had no criminal record. Sher Dil held the Sialkot police responsible for the incident as police officials witnessed the whole incident as silent spectators.
Police claimed to have arrested two police officers and five others who were present at the time the two brothers were beaten to death in public. Police contingents also stepped up efforts to apprehend six other officers who witnessed the murder but made little attempt to stop the mob.
DPO Sialkot Afzal Mehmood Butt said that five suspects involved in torturing the brothers had been rounded up and both of them were currently being investigated. “The culprits are still under investigation and we cannot release their names as yet. But rest assured we are doing all that we can to bring them to justice,” he said. Also on Saturday, a high-level committee, following the orders of Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, opened its investigation into the brutal murder of the two young men. The committee is headed by Deputy Inspector General Major Mubashar along with DIG Establishment Shoaib Dastgir. The committee's officials visited the crime scene (Doburji Malhiyaan Chowk on the main Daska Road on the outskirts of Sialkot city) and gathered evidence.
The committee also recorded the statements of the grieving family. The committee has also recorded statements of senior police officials, Sialkot DCO Mujahid Sher Dil and local Rescue 1122 officials.
The investigators have assured the public of a transparent probe. “The TV footage confirms the presence of senior police officials on the spot when the youths were lynched,” Mubashar said. The grieving family of the lynched youths alleged that the senior police officials were protecting their juniors, adding that police had refused to register a murder case under Sections 302 or 109 of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC).
According to the family, the police registered a case against the SHO, a sub-inspector, four ASIs and eight other police officials under Section 155-C of the Police Ordinance. The section deals with misconduct by police officers when they are guilty of “any wilful breach or neglect of any provision of law or of any rule or regulation or any order which [they are] bound to observe or obey.” The maximum punishment under this section is three years in prison, with or without a fine.
After the chief justice's intervention and a subsequent notification by the Punjab chief minister, an FIR however has been lodged in Saddar police station Sialkot under Sections 302 and 109 of the PPC (which deal with pre-meditated murder and abetment, respectively) against thirty people including 17 of those who were captured in the video footage.
The other 13 accused are police officials, against whom a case – under 155-C of the Police Order – has already been registered. The 13 police officers include SHO Rana Ilyas Sub Inspector Gulzar, ASI Riaz Tariq, Sarfaraz, Waris Ali, Khaliq, Constable Rizwan, Nathay Khan, Mubarak Ali, Nawaz Salim and Abdul Razak.
While the family of the deceased boys and locals insists the boys were innocent, the family of the victim of a robbery, Bilal, contested this view. “You can go ask anyone, these boys were the robbers and they killed my husband. Why is my family being accused of spreading false rumours when we are the ones who lost someone? We didn't kill those boys but they killed my husband,” said Bilal's widow, adding that the media and locals had been threatening her family to keep quiet about the robbery incident that preceded the mob lynching of young brothers Mueez and Muneeb Butt.
President Asif Ali Zardari condemned the killing of the two young brothers. He has ordered an inquiry. The presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar said that the president was upset over the sad episode and firmly believed that “such an act of infamy, shame and brutality should not go unpunished.”