Balochistan minister denies allegations

QUETTA (Agencies): Balochistan’s Minister for Construction and Communications Sardar Abdul Rehman Khetran on Tuesday denied keeping a private jail after bullet-riddled bodies of a woman and her two sons were found from a well near his residence in the Barkhan district area last night.
The victims, a woman and two men, were identified by the police as Giran Naz, age 40-45, wife of Khan Muhammad Marri and her two sons Mohammad Nawaz, aged 20-25, and Abdul Qadir, aged 15-20.
A press release issued by the police said the bodies, which were in sacks, were found yesterday (Feb 20) at around 8pm. The station house officer (SHO) of Barkhan Police Station was informed about the corpses in the well. “As soon as the SHO was informed about the incident, he immediately reached the site with his police party,” the statement said. The bodies were then recovered from the well and transported to Civil Hospital Barkhan. They were identified by Abdul Qayoom Bijrani Marri, whom the police described as an heir. The bodies were handed over to him after the completion of legal requirements, the press release stated.
Talking to media, Khan Muhammad — the husband of the slain woman and the father of the brothers — alleged that in 2019, his wife and seven children were imprisoned in Khetran’s private jail due to not testifying in a case conflict between Khetran and his son, Sardar Inam Khetran. He said that a video of his wife had surfaced on a website after which his family’s bodies were found in a well in a far-flung area. Khan Muhammad alleged that his family was killed after being tortured.
A private TV channel was able to verify that the woman in the video was indeed Khan Muhammad’s wife — one of the three victims. A first information report (FIR) has so far not been registered.
It added that on November 16, a police party comprising Barkhan superintendent of police (SP), sub-divisional police officer, deputy superintendent of police, SHO and an Anti-Terrorist Force team raided the Haji Kot house of Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) spokesperson and Provincial Minister for Construction and Communications Sardar Abdul Rehman Khetran but no one was found there. The police statement further said that on January 18, Khan Mohammad Marri had submitted a request to the relevant authorities alleging that his wife and children were kept in captivity in Khetran’s private jail and were being tortured. He had appealed for their immediate recovery.
The press release said the Barkhan SP was given directions for the immediate recovery of Khan Muhammad’s family, adding that he had tried obtaining information about the abductees but to no avail. The press release elaborated that the bodies of his family were found in sacks in a well in Somiani on Monday. It added that strict action will be taken against the culprits once the victims’ heirs file a case and the perpetrators would be brought to justice.
The police said they were conducting the investigation from every angle. Khan Muhammad said that the funeral prayers for the deceased were offered and the family was now heading to Quetta with the bodies to protest in front of the chief minister house or high court.
Protesters reached Quetta later in the day with the bodies and staged a sit-in outside the Red Zone while chanting slogans against the minister. Khetran, while talking to media, denied the allegation and termed the incident as “propaganda created to tarnish his political repute”. He claimed that his son was behind the “conspiracy” against him and was also responsible for the video of the deceased woman.
The minister said that he would pursue legal action against his opponents on the issue. Later, while speaking to private TV channel, Khetran reiterated that the murders were “a conspiracy against him”, saying that he was in Quetta for the past 10 days and attending the assembly sessions, apart from holding meetings with the Balochistan chief minister.
“Last night, around two kilometres away from home, three bodies were thrown in a well,” he said. “I don’t know who threw them.” The BAP MPA said his fourth son Inam had an interest in politics and wanted to be a sardar (chieftain) too. “Inam also took over the properties of the family forcefully,” he alleged.
Khetran claimed that the video of the deceased woman was shot by Inam who then posted it on social media. However, he clarified that he wasn’t pinning the blame on anyone. The provincial minister emphasised that he did not know who was behind the killings. “I don’t have any knowledge about who committed the murder and who threw the bodies. I have been in Quetta [all this time].” When asked if an FIR had been registered for the incident, Khetran said the police will lodge one if anyone requests so.
“There is no logic behind registering an FIR against me if I’ve been 500km away,” he added. The minister said the government had taken notice of the incident, adding that he himself asked Balochistan Chief Minister Abdul Quddus Bizenjo to form a joint investigation team (JIT). “I told them to go and get my entire village searched and see if there is a private jail.” When asked if he would resign from his position to ensure an impartial investigation, Khetran defended himself by saying: “Why will I resign? If someone levels an allegation against me, am I supposed to resign? Not at all. However, I will make myself available for the investigation.”
Khetran said he had told the additional chief secretary, the deputy commissioner, and the SP to conduct an inquiry into the incident. “These allegations are being levelled against me since 2013 when the elections took place. In 2014 I was removed from power and till 2018 I stayed in jail. If there was any private jail, the authorities would have found out back then,” he added. Meanwhile, Balochistan Inspector General of Police Abdul Khaliq Sheikh took notice of the murders and vowed no leniency against those involved.
In a separate statement issued earlier today, provincial police spokesperson Muhammad Aslam said the bodies had been retrieved from the well and taken to a nearby hospital for medico-legal formalities. He urged people not to pay heed to any rumours regarding the incident and wait for the police findings. “A high-level impartial investigation committee will be conducted in consultation with the families of victims whose bodies have been recovered from [the well] in Barkhan,” the spokesperson said in a statement.
The statement said the victims were apparently sprayed with bullets. The chief minister also took notice of the incident and extended his condolences to the victims’ family. He ordered the home department to form a JIT for the incident’s impartial investigation. “Injustice will not be allowed with the affected family,” he said.
Balochistan Minister for Home Affairs Mir Ziaullah Langove announced the formation of a JIT, saying its notification would be issued today. “The government will not close its eyes on the incident. The Barkhan incident should be condemned as much as possible,” the home minister said. Langove said he had written to the provincial district administrations to inform him of any private jails but no report was received till today regarding them.
Balochistan Education Minister Naseebullah Marri also condemned the “heart-wrenching” incident in today’s provincial assembly session. He said the media had covered the matter and it was raised in the Senate as well but “we all were callous and remained silent. We are all responsible for this.” Marri said that if any action was taken on the issue then Monday’s incident would not have happened. He requested the chief minister to conduct a judicial inquiry on the matter and take action against the culprits. Senators Sarfaraz Bugti and Mushtaq Ahmed also strongly condemned the incident.