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ICC Note:

Yesterday, three suspects believed to be tied to the March church bombings in Lahore’s Christian majority neighborhood of Youhanabad were killed by police. The police had taken the suspects to a village where they were to retrieve suicide vests and weapons as part of their investigation when they reportedly came under attack from militants attempting to rescue the three suspects. In the process of the shootout, the three suspects were killed by police. Extra-judicial killings by police are not uncommon in Pakistan. Many Christians are disappointed that the suspects were not brought to justice through Pakistan’s court system showing that the Christian community is a valuable part of Pakistan’s society.  

9/3/2015 Pakistan (Daily Times) – Three suspects believed to be involved in the Youhanabad Church attack were shot by the police on Tuesday, during a raid in a village where they had taken suspects to retrieve suicide vests and weapons as a part of the investigation.

Those affected by the attack have been awaiting justice for months. There is no denying that the perpetrators of the Youhanabad Church blasts must be brought to justice to show the Christian community that they are valuable citizens of Pakistan and that their persecution will not be tolerated by the state.

Although Pakistan has a history of violence against religious minorities, particularly Christians, the Youhanabad attacks were the only incidents in recent history that led to a massive public outcry and civil unrest in Lahore. The deaths of innocent Christians attending church brought out the underlying hostility between the Muslim majority and the disenfranchised minorities in Pakistan. This incident does not, however, feel like justice or even vindication. Since the trial of the suspects was still ongoing, it cannot be determined whether the three men who were killed where actually the perpetrators of the attack.

The police’s story that militants tried to rescue their colleagues and this led to a shootout in which all the suspects were killed has become a familiar one. After the similar death of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi leader Malik Ishaq, the killing of suspects in police custody during ‘shootouts’ has become a regular occurrence.

Of course, if suspects or militants begin firing at police officials, they have every right to defend themselves. However, these police encounters, which are always shrouded in mystery, should not be used as an excuse to execute suspects extra-judicially. Police departments and investigation agencies need to have a mechanism in place to record and monitor these police encounters. There need to be internal investigations into police shootings to rule out any wrongdoing on the part of police officers.

Although it is probably true that not all police officers are corrupt and many valiant officers have risked their lives in the government’s bid to fight terrorism countrywide, there has to be a system of accountability so that the police does not use this drive to become even more brutal.

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