The country on Wednesday was left shocked after horrific images of the body of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) worker Ali Bilal — nicknamed Zille Shah — in Lahore began circulating on social media, not long after the PTI’s rally to launch its election campaign was called off.
Soon “Zille Shah”, “Ali Bilal” and “Black Vigo” began to trend on Twitter and other social media platforms.
Before the watching eyes of the horrified country, more and more details of Bilal’s death began to surface, including closed-circuit television (CCTV) footage of a private 4X4 vehicle, which can be seen dropping Bilal at a hospital where he was pronounced dead.
According to the post-mortem report, the victim had 26 marks of torture on his body.
PTI Chairman Imran Khan then shared a video of Bilal being taken away in a police van claiming that he was killed in police custody.
“This video clearly shows that Ali Bilal, also affectionately called Zille Shah, was alive when taken to [the] police station. So he was killed while in police custody — such is the murderous bent of the present regime & Punjab police,” the former prime minister tweeted.
However, the screengrabs of the CTV footage reveal that Bilal was brought to the hospital in a private 4X4 vehicle by people who were dressed in civilian clothing and not police uniforms.
The footage also reveals the faces of those who brought Bilal to the hospital.
However, the police seem no closer to finding the perpetrators of the heinous crime.
Instead, the Lahore police — in a statement Thursday — said that they have formed a committee comprising two police officers to probe Bilal’s death.
Deputy Inspector General (DIG) Elite Force Sadiq Ali and Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Imran Kashore have been named in the committee, the police said.
The inquiry committee will note down the statements of the witnesses and the committee will submit its report to the inspector general of police (IGP) Punjab in three days, added the law enforcement agency.
While the committee conducts its probe, Twitter is rife with contrary speculations on the matter. Proponents of PTI categorically claimed that the party worker was brutalised by police.
Taking to his Twitter handle, the PTI chief wrote: “Ali Bilal unarmed & our dedicated & passionate PTI worker murdered by Punjab police. Shameful, this brutality on unarmed PTI workers who were coming to attend election rally. Pakistan is in the grip of murderous criminals. We will file cases against IG, CCPO & others for murder.”
The official Twitter handle of the party also shared pictures of Bilal’s post-mortem report, stating: “Post Mortem report of Shaheed Ali Bilal shows use of blunt force & brutal torture causing 26 injuries”
Former minister of Human Rights of Pakistan and PTI senior leader Shireen Mazari took to the microblogging platform and alleged that Bilal’s demise was a result of “custodial torture”.
“Custodial torture against PTI ldrship [leadership] & workers has reached new depths of barbarism with the killing in custody of Ali Bilal. Question is why a powerful psycopath with his henchmen overseeing all this is being allowed to continue making [a] mockery of our Constitution & Rule of Law?”
However, the government maintains that the matter is being looked into. Speaking at Geo News programme Aaj Shahzeb khanzada Kay Sath, interim Information Minister Amir Mir said yesterday: “The circumstances around the death of the PTI worker Ali Bilal alias Zille Shah have yet to be determined.”
He further said that the investigation into the matter had been going on since Wednesday night and the Punjab IG had formulated a two-member committee to look into the matter.
“The committee’s findings will be revealed in three days,” he said, adding, “This is because the preliminary investigations have found CCTV footage from the hospital in Lahore where this person was brought.”
When Bilal was taken to the hospital on a stretcher, doctors pronounced him dead and immediately afterwards, the person who brought him in disappeared, Mir added.
“We are trying the CCTV footage to find the owner of the vehicle.”
In response to a question, Mir said: “If you believe social media, we [Punjab interim government] killed him, but it must be asked what would we stand to gain from this death? This dead body is simply an attempt to stigmatise Punjab Police.”
He further said that when the body was brought to the hospital, the PTI rally had been over for several hours.
“This matter is a mystery to us,” the interim minister said.
Mir said that the preliminary post-mortem revealed two injuries — on the head and in the abdomen.
“Apparently, by circumstantial evidence, he was killed in a car accident. The question is: who was this person?”
We are still trying to figure out exactly which clash resulted in Bilal’s death, which was certainly not outside Zaman park.
“Had he been injured outside Zaman Park, he would have been taken to the hospital immediately.”
Asserting that should any police personnel be found involved in the matter, the perpetrator would be punished “according to law,” the interim information minister said: “We will find out who was behind this and where the body came from.”