JIT to probe firing at SC Justice Ijazul Ahsan's residence

Police issue initial investigation report of firing incidents on Ahsan's residence

Raees Ansari

LAHORE: A Joint Investigation Team (JIT) was formed Sunday to probe the firing incidents at a Supreme Court judge's residence earlier the same day, here in the city.

Two separate firing incidents were reported at the Lahore residence of Justice Ijazul Ahsan, a judge at the Supreme Court of Pakistan.

A first information report (FIR) was consequently filed against unidentified persons, with charges comprising attempted murder as well as a violation of the anti-terrorism act.

According to a spokesperson for the Government of Punjab, the JIT, to be headed by additional inspector-general of police (IG) Muhammad Tahir, will comprise Sultan Chaudhry, the deputy inspector-general for investigation, alongside representatives from the Military Intelligence (MI), Inter-Services Intelligence (IS), and Intelligence Bureau (IB).

Officers of the Special Branch and Forensics Agency will also be part of the team.

Initial probe report

As per the initial investigation report issued by the police, Pakistan Rangers VIP Venue shift in-charge Naik Abdur Razzaq reported — at around 10:45 PM on April 14 — that a stray bullet hit the upper collar of the main gate of a house in H Block Model Town in Lahore.

"Punjab Forensic Science Agency (PFSA) Crime Scene Unit was called to process the incident to analyze it forensically," the investigation report said.

"They collected the evidence (data, photographs, and bullet slug)."

In addition, provincial government spokesman Malik Muhammad Ahmad Khan, as per Reuters, said: "Bullet shells were found outside the residence.”

The front part of a bullet that hit the door was recovered from the garage and authorities advised for the collection of all of the area's closed-circuit television (CCTV) footage.

Police believe the shots were fired from roofs of surrounding houses and not the street in front of the house. However, neighbours of the judge informed Geo News that they do not recall hearing gunshots in the night.

Makhdoom Saad, the Forensic Scientist Crime Scene Investigator, said a report on the incident shall be furnished on Monday.

As per the Crime Scene Unit's (CSU) preliminary spatial observations, the bullet could be stray and in the final stage of its parabolic trajectory fired from a distance, the report said. It added that a search operation has been conducted on the probable direction of the bullet trajectory.

The PFSA's Fire Arms and Tool Marks (FATM) department will provide a detailed forensic report once an analysis of the submitted evidence is completed.

SC Bar Association calls off strike

The Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan, which had earlier threatened to go on a strike after the shooting, later announced calling off its decision.

The Bar Association president explained that it had rescinded the decision on the orders of Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Saqib Nisar, who, speaking at the valima reception of Lahore High Court Justice Ali Akbar Qureshi's son, said the move was made for the sake of litigants with cases fixed for Monday.

Politicians, others condemn

Following the incident, the Pakistan Army, the government's top brass, and politicians voiced their condemnation over the incident, with the legal community announcing to wear black armbands in protest today.

In a statement issued by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), the Pakistan Army said: “Firing incident at the residence of Mr Justice Ijaz ul Ahsan is condemnable.”

“All stakeholders should ensure [a] secure environment for [the] effective functioning of the state institutions and continue the efforts to consolidate improving peace and stability.”

Policemen stand guard on a street — leading to the residence of Justice Ijazul Ahsan, a judge at the Supreme Court of Pakistan, after unknown gunmen fired shots at the building — in Lahore, Pakistan, April 15, 2018. REUTERS/Mohsin Raza

Later on, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi also released a condemnation message and directed for the early arrest of those responsible.

Similarly, Shehbaz Sharif, the Chief Minister for Punjab, took notice of the incident, advising the province's top cop to round up the culprits. His government called for immediate action to be taken. 

Asif Ali Zardari, the co-chairman of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the country's former president, called for a high-level judicial probe into the incident.

PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari also condemned the incident, while Imran Khan, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief, called the incident part of "Sicilian-mafia-like tactics".

On the other hand, Marriyum Aurangzeb, the Minister of Information for State, in her condemnation said such anarchists should be unveiled as soon as possible.

A high-profile judge

Justice Ahsan often spends the weekend in Lahore, his hometown, where he, along with the chief justice, presides over several cases related to public welfare issues and other matters at the Lahore registry.

Justice Ahsan is also the monitoring judge of the ongoing corruption cases against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif. He was part of the five-member bench that disqualified the ex-premier in the Panama Papers case last year.

He has also remained the chief justice of the Lahore High Court.

Additional reporting by Reuters