Bakery beating finally catches Shahbaz’s eye

LAHORE, Oct 15: Defence B police on Monday registered a case against three unidentified men and six Elite Police Force officials for allegedly hurling life threats and torturing an employee at a confectionary in a case linked to an ‘influential’ young lady.

On orders by the chief executive of the province, police took the action some eight days after the incident allegedly took place in T-Block market of the Defence Housing Authority on Oct 7. Police took two men, including an Elite Police Force official, into custody.

Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has also ordered a high-level inquiry into the torture incident.

According to the First Information Report lodged under sections 148, 149 and 506 (punishment for criminal intimidation) of the Pakistan Penal Code, complainant Umer Hussain, a DHA Phase II resident, stated that he ran the confectionary ‘Sweet Tooth’ in T-Block market.

Between I pm and 2 pm on Oct 7, a woman came to the shop and asked for a cake. The shop was closed for cleaning. The employees asked the visitor to come later when the shop would be open. Two men, who according to Mr Hussain’s account appeared to be bodyguards of the lady, misbehaved with an employee named Irfan and left with warnings of dire consequences.

Between 6 pm and 7 pm the same day, the two men revisited the bakery accompanied by another man. They identified Irfan and took him just outside the bakery where up to six uniformed Elite Police officials were present. Irfan was thrashed and threatened. Bakery owner Hussain says in the FIR he alerted the Rescue 15 police about the incident.

A police investigator privy to the development told Dawn the police had taken Elite Police Force head-constable Muhammad Riaz (4262) and Zafar Hussain of Saqib Town, Baidian Road, into custody and raids were in progress to arrest the remaining suspects, including policemen. Zafar Hussain is said to be a private bodyguard of chief minister’s son-in-law, Imran Yousaf.

The same officer said the police couldn’t as yet establish the identity of the young lady mentioned in the FIR – even though CCTV footage purportedly of the lady’s visit to the bakery on Oct 7 had widely been circulating on the internet for the last few days. On Monday, some television channels joined social media sites into suspecting that the lady was a close relation of Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif. Some loudly wondered whether it was his daughter, as alleged by some social media sites.

The CCTV footage doing the rounds captures two episodes, separated by a few hours. The first installment shows a young woman wearing a scarf entering the shop and apparently having a conversation with the staff. The second episode shows men dressed in shalwar kameez escorting bakery employee Irfan out, talking to him and then launching into a physical attack on him as a handful of uniformed souls who appear to be members of the Elite Force stand by flaunting their ‘No Fear’ jackets. The ‘anonymous’ police officer Dawn talked to said the registration of the case was based on this second incident. Dawn tried to reach Umer Hussain, the complainant in the case, to get more details of the case. He couldn’t be reached despite repeated calls on his cell phone.

According to an official handout, it was only on Monday morning that the matter was brought to the notice of Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif – who was on a foreign visit at the time when the incident is alleged to have taken place.

“Two police officials involved in the incident have been arrested immediately after registration of a case….” It quoted the CM as directing that “all the accused involved in this incident be arrested immediately” and that “no one was above the law and action would be taken against all the officials involved in this crime.”

“(It is) an unpardonable act…legal action would be taken and supremacy of law would be ensured,” the handout quoted the CM as vowing.