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Tuesday Apr 03 2018

Sialkot UC chairman accused of journalist's murder still at large


SIALKOT: Union Council Chairperson Imran Cheema — accused of the murder of journalist Zeeshan Butt — remains at large a week after the incident was reported. 

Butt, a print journalist associated with a Lahore-based newspaper, visited Cheema's office in Sambrial tehsil on March 27 to enquire about taxes levied on shop owners in Begowala union council, according to an audiotape of his last telephonic conversation. 

Following a harsh exchange of words between the PML-N UC chairperson and the journalist, the latter was issued death threats from Cheema –verified by the audiotape of the journalist's telephonic conversation with District Council Chairperson Hina Arshad Waraich. 

Union Council Chairman Imran Cheema (left) — accused of the murder of journalist Zeeshan Butt (right) — remains at large a week after the incident was reported. Photo: Geo News 

The journalist, who had called Waraich to complain against Cheema's death threats, did not get a chance to complete his conversation. The sound of three shots, allegedly fired at Butt, during the conversation are clearly audible in the audiotape. 

“Assalam-o-Alaikum, madam this is Zeeshan Butt from Nawa-i-Waqt Sambrial. Madam, I went to UC Begowala to obtain details of taxes levied on shops. Your chairman is abusing me and saying he will kill me…," Butt said, following which, gunshots can be heard and Waraich uttering 'hello hello' to no response. 

Prior to calling the district council chairperson, Butt had contacted the area's SHO, informed him about receiving death threats from Cheema, however, the authorities failed to respond to his request for assistance. 

“Assalam-o-Alaikum Agha Sahib are you fine?” Butt can be heard saying in his call to Sialkot police SHO. “Yes I am fine,” the police officer responds.

“This is Zeeshan Butt from Nawa-i-Waqt,” the journalist introduces himself, which is acknowledged by the police officer.

“I am here at UC Begowala please send [police]…I came here to obtain details and Imran issued threats that he will kill me and has brought guns. I am standing here only, please send the police,” Imran says, adding that he was also calling the ‘deputy'.  

The deceased and accused are said to have had a prior enmity after they contested municipal elections against one another. 

The man succumbed to injuries received from firing within Begowala UC office premises – site of the incident. 

Butt's family has demanded justice from the authorities, who have yet to arrest the accused. 

Local police say they are using the latest technology to trace the accused, who had fled the site of incident. When cntacted, DPO Sialkot was not available for a comment.