Late in the night of May 5, Faizan Jattak was traveling back to his home. He was in his early twenties and had gone out for a cup of tea with a friend. While crossing the “I Love Quetta” square, his vehicle hit a motorbike of a police patrol team, the Eagle Squad. Members of the squad were not injured in the accident. Faizan, however, was confused and tried to flee from the scene. The Eagle Squad personnel chased him and after 700 meters, they intercepted his vehicle. Rather than stopping him, they fired live rounds, killing him on the spot.
The issue soon made it to social media and received condemnation from people all over the country. The government arrested the four Eagle Squad members and registered an FIR against them for murder. This quick action by the government settled immediate backlash in this case, but justice for Faizan is still far from sight.
The Eagle Squad was formed a few years ago as an elite police squad to protect the roads and streets of Quetta from criminals and miscreants. They were supposed to be better trained than regular police. However, in the last few years, there have been many accusations of citizens facing abuse at the hands of the Eagle Squad. In fact, a former SSP Operations of Quetta, Tariq Mastooi, had issued orders a few years ago to prevent Eagle Squad personnel from stopping citizens for checking without the presence of the local chief of the police station. However, the successors of Mastooi have clearly let the Eagle Squad loose.
Faizan’s killing has raised many questions about the Eagle Squad. How can Eagle Squad members shoot citizens during a routine stopping of a vehicle? Why are they not properly trained and have an accountability mechanism? Why has such an ill-trained and anti-people force been allowed to operate in Quetta? The government has not provided any answers to these questions.
Instead, the Eagle Squad is presenting its own defense for the killers. They are claiming that the hit-and-run by Faizan infuriated their personnel and they shot him in anger. This is not only ridiculous but an admission of guilt and gross misconduct. How can people who cannot control their temper be provided guns and allowed to patrol the streets? They are a threat to the citizens.
Quetta is already marred by instances of terrorism on a frequent basis. People lose their loved ones in acts of terrorism that take place regularly. Mugging on gunpoint and robberies have become common occurrences in the city. Last month, Abdul Wahid Raisani, a journalist working for Azadi Digital News was gunned down outside his home, allegedly, by criminals who wanted to snatch his bike. There was no Eagle Squad to prevent that killing or to apprehend the criminals.
There have also been several cases of Quetta police misbehaving with citizens while enforcing the so-called lockdown in Quetta. In an unwise and poorly managed attempt to enforce a lockdown in Quetta on May 8, police erected checkpoints at several places and created a curfew-like situation. At one of these checkpoints near the University of Balochistan, police not only abused but punched Dr Kaleemullah Badini in the chest. Badini, who is a bright and young doctor, complained about this issue on social media.
There are many other instances that are not reported on social media. The government and the local administration have failed to put an end to such abusive behavior by police.
There are three things that must be done to prevent further abuse of citizens and loss of credibility by the government. First, the four Eagle Squad members involved in the killing of Faizan should be tried under the Ant-Terrorism Act as opposed to a murder charge. What they did on the night of May 6 was nothing less than terrorism and should be treated as such. There should also be proper judicial oversight of the case because certain individuals within the police system are inclined to protect their colleagues in the Eagle Squad.
Second, the Faizan Jattak case has exposed that the Eagle Squad is not fit to perform policing duties in this environment. Therefore, this force must be temporarily suspended and all personnel should be taken off the streets. The government must devise proper accountability mechanisms and rules of engagement with citizens for the Eagle Squad. They must also be trained to protect the citizens and not kill them. Once these arrangements have been made, then the Eagle Force can be restored.
Finally, the government of Balochistan must make arrangements to protect the life and property of citizens in the killing fields of Quetta. Police should be disciplined to respect the citizens and must protect them from miscreants. If the government fails to take these basic steps, then this will further fuel the resentment and create chaos in the society.
The writer is a journalist and researcher. He can be reached on Twitter: @iAdnanAamir