Pakistani PM 'shocked' by extrajudicial killing of four

Parents shot dead in front of their children by counter-terrorism force in Punjab
Pakistani PM 'shocked' by extrajudicial killing of four

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan says everyone must be accountable before the law. (Photo by Adem Altan/AFP)

The extrajudicial killing of four people has sparked outrage and anger across Pakistan and a pledge of "swift action" from Prime Minister Imran Khan.

A husband and wife, their teenage daughter and a friend were killed in broad daylight when a team from Pakistan's counter-terrorism force opened fire on their car in Sialkot district of Punjab province on Jan. 19.

Three children, including two minors, who were also in the car miraculously survived the shooting, which was filmed and uploaded on social media by passers-by.

Mohammad Khalil, 42, his wife Nabila, 38, daughter Areeba, 13, and friend Zeeshan Javed were traveling from the provincial capital of Lahore to Burewala to attend a wedding when their car was intercepted by armed personnel of the Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD).

Police initially claimed that those killed were so-called Islamic State members who shot at security personnel when asked to stop. Videos of the crime scene, however, appeared to contradict the police version.

The killings made headlines on news channels and social media, prompting the government to lodge a case against 16 CTD personnel and name a team of officials to investigate the matter.

In a video statement, Shehbaz Gill, a spokesman for Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar, said that all those involved in the raid were taken into custody on the orders of PM Khan.

In a Twitter statement on Jan. 20, Khan expressed his shock at the incident:

Khan added: "While the CTD has done a great job in fight against terrorism, everyone must be accountable before the law. As soon as JIT report comes, swift action will be taken. The govt's priority is protection of all its citizens." 

Separately, opposition leader Bilawal Bhutto Zardari "vehemently condemned the killings of innocent citizens at the hands of Punjab police in Sahiwal" and blamed the government led by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).

He added: "The killings of the citizens are vivid proof that the government of PTI has made Punjab a police state. The killings are a message to the people of the country that they should not go out with their children.

"The killings of parents in front of their children has exposed all the tall claims of good governance of the ruling PTI."

Father Almas Silas of Sacred Heart Church in Sahiwal spent the weekend listening to the concerns of his parishioners following the tragedy.

"We condemn it in the strongest terms. If the victims were criminals, they should have been arrested. The law enforcement agencies should have taken the legal course of action. Killing parents in front of their children is the most heinous act imaginable. What police did was absolutely wrong. This is blatant state terrorism," he said.

The Dominican priest has run a security team of 13 youngsters to protect the church during Masses for the last six years.

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"The phobia of looming terror has affected the whole society. The young volunteers on guard are directed to treat incoming visitors with respect. A single suspicious act can trigger a weapon," he said.

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