August 23, 2020

By Haider Kaleem


Student activists and political organizations have staged protests across several cities in Pakistan against the extrajudicial murder of Hayat Mirza by Frontier Corps (FC) personnel in his home city of Turbat, Balochistan a week back.

In protests held across the country on Saturday, the participants called for an impartial and thorough inquiry into the youth’s gruesome killing. The protesters demanded checks and balances on the powers conferred upon military, paramilitary, and civilian agencies to prevent such incidents in the future.

Initial reports claimed that according to statements by the Balochistan police, Hayat had lost his life in a bomb attack targeting an FC convoy passing through the area. It was then reported that the student had been mistakenly gunned down during a search operation following the blast.

However, eyewitness accounts from locals as well as Hayat’s own family offer a different version of events. Hayat, an undergraduate student of physiology at the Karachi University, had returned to his home in Turbat while his university remained closed due to COVID-19 restrictions. According to Murad Baloch, the deceased’s brother, Hayat was working in his father’s date orchard with his parents on August 13, the same day an IED blast injured three personnel of an FC convoy in the Aapsar area of Turbat.

Following the blast, FC soldiers conducted an area sweep and came upon Hayat, whose family farm was near the blast site. The officials accused the youth of attacking the convoy and began assaulting him. He was then blindfolded by one Shahidullah, an FC officer, and shot several times in the head in view of his parents. He was killed on the spot. Murad related that the assailant then raised the barrel of his gun against his father but was stopped by his colleagues.

The exact motive behind the killing has yet to be determined, but Murad believes his brother had been killed as retribution for the attack on the FC convoy earlier that noon. Following the slew of initial reports where Hayat’s death was painted as collateral, the incident gained momentum on social media, finally prompting police action.

Within hours of the incident, Shahidullah was arrested after an internal investigation revealed that the soldier had acted “in haste”, and was surrendered to the DPO Turbat under orders of Inspector General (IG) FC South Balochistan, Major General Sarfraz Ali.
SSP Turbat Najeeb Pandrani confirmed that the victim’s father had identified and named the assailant at the moment of the incident. After his seven-day remand, Shahidullah was produced before a magistrate on Wednesday, August 19 where he pleaded guilty under section 164 of the Pakistan Penal Code (punishment for abetment by public servant).
The incident not only sparked a series of protests across the country but was also raised in government circles and institutional circles. The Human Rights Council of Balochistan registered its strong condemnation of the incident, rubbishing all initial reports that the youth was killed in the crossfire, and termed the incident a deliberate act of violence against an innocent bystander.

Taking notice of the incident, the Senate Functional Committee on Human Rights has summoned IG FC Balochistan and IG Balochistan police to brief the committee on the incident, and submit their replies regarding breach of SOPs that resulted in the execution of a civilian by security personnel, and the state of progress in the inquiry so far in the House on August 28, 2020.

According to a statement submitted by the prime accused, Shahidullah, the soldier had previously been gravely wounded in two separate incidents during his service with the FC. Upon hearing about the IED blast in Turbat aimed at an FC convoy, he had become enraged and could no longer think rationally. He had spotted Hayat nearby and believing the student responsible for setting off the detonator killed him in a fit of rage.