Less than a week after a television cameraman captured shocking footage of Pakistani paramilitary troops shooting an unarmed young man and allowing him to bleed to death despite his pleas for mercy, Pakistani officials have announced that the six Rangers in the video will face trial in an anti-terrorist court, according to CNN. Pakistan's Dawn adds that two senior law-enforcement officials will also be transferred from their posts over the incident, despite a provincial government's argument that the officers shouldn't be held accountable for the actions of their subordinates.
While CNN quotes Zohra Yusuf, the chairwoman of the Pakistan Human Rights Commission, as saying the incident has provoked unprecedented "anger among the public and even politicians," some argue that the case is more gray than black and white, since the victim, a 17-year-old named Sarfraz Shah, allegedly tried to rob people in a park and reached for the troops' weapons before he was killed. "There should be no doubt that this video shows an unjust action," Interior Minister Rehman Malik said. "Action will be taken against the soldiers, but no one should forget he [the victim] is a criminal. He pointed a pistol at two women and then he tried to rob them." Shah's family, meanwhile, insists Shah is innocent. In this video from Al Jazeera, Shah's brother claims Shah was simply strolling in the park because there was no power at their house:
Beyond the question of Shah's innocence, the episode has also sparked a debate in Pakistan about extrajudicial killings. In Dawn today, Tazeen Javed claims that these kinds of killings have become "a norm" in Pakistan and speculates that the troops involved in Shah's death will go free, noting that nobody has been apprehended yet in an inquiry into Pakistani security forces shooting unarmed Chechens in Quetta last month. "Not a day pass by when one or two bullet riddled bodies are found on the roadsides," she writes. "Since 2010 approximately 140 political activists, journalists, academics and students were killed in extrajudicial killings." An editorial in The Express Tribune applauds the Pakistani judiciary for showing the "courage to take on even the dreaded paramilitary force" but calls for any inquiry to go beyond the killing of Shah and examine the "culture of impunity" that prevails in among Pakistan's Rangers. Citing the mysterious death of Pakistani journalist Saleem Shahzad in late May, The Express Tribune adds that when Pakistani authorities "seek to silence someone, they usually succeed." Protesters in Karachi have been expressing similar sentiments in recent days. In this photo from Reuters, demonstrators hold an effigy representing the rangers:
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.