A video showing five Pakistani soldiers executing an unarmed young man in cold blood has sparked a wave of outrage in Pakistan. The extremely violent video was first broadcast on YouTube, before being picked up by the country’s television channels.
The scene took place
on the evening of Wednesday June 8 in a park in Karachi, Pakistan’s second largest city and economic capital. It is unclear who shot the video, although the soldiers were visibly aware that they were being filmed. The footage shows the young man begging the soldiers to spare him. Then one of the officers raises his rifle, less than a metre away from his victim, and shoots him in the arm and leg. The young man collapses to the ground, screaming in pain and begging the soldiers to bring him to the hospital. He eventually falls unconscious and bleeds to death, as the soldiers look on.
The victim was called Sarfaraz Shah and he was 22 years old. According to local police, he was detained by the soldiers after pedestrians alerted them that he was robbing people in a nearby park. The soldiers are members of a paramilitary force called the Pakistan Rangers
. Before the video was aired on YouTube, a Rangers spokesman stated that the officers had been forced to shoot down Shah because he was armed and dangerous. Yet the video shows Sabir Shah being dragged by the hair by a man in civilian clothes, who leads him to the rangers. At no time is a weapon visible in his hands.
Pakistan's top judge on Friday ordered the government to remove Major General Aijaz Chaudhry from their posts, head of the paramilitary in Sindh province, and Sindh inspector general of police Fayyaz Leghari. If the govnerment did not do so within three days, "the court itself will take action against them" Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry was quoted as saying by a court official. The five rangers have been arrested pending trial.
Given the extremely violent nature of the video, we have chosen to show only selected screenshots. Warning: these images may be considered disturbing.
On June 9, hundreds of people attended Sabir Shah’s funeral, which quickly turned into an anti-Rangers protest. On the Pakistani Web, thousands of reactions denounced the army’s brutality. Here are a few selected “tweets”:
"In Pakistan apparently having a gun makes you a judge, jury and executioner" @motia
"Comdemn #KarachiRanger’s killing of Sarfaraz Shah – we can’t expect progress until the lawlessness & barbarianism is driven out!’" @shaheer87
This is the second time in less than two months that the Pakistani army is involved in a video scandal. In early May, five members of a Chechen family living in Quetta, in southern Pakistan, were killed by soldiers who mistook them for suicide bombers. Video footage showed that the three children and their parents were not carrying explosive belts, as police had initially claimed.