Rejecting the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)’s claims of Ali Bilal being killed by police, Punjab caretaker Chief Minister Mohsin Naqvi on Saturday clarified that the party worker had died in a car accident before being transported to hospital.
Addressing a press conference in Lahore with Inspector General of Police (IGP) Usman Anwar, he said he would not bow to any pressure tactics and would not respond to propaganda being spread by the PTI against him. Sharing details of a probe launched by police to determine the circumstances of Bilal’s death, Naqvi said PTI Central Punjab Vice-President Raja Shakeel—whose car dropped the deceased’s body at Services Hospital—had informed PTI leader Yasmin Rashid that the man was hit by the car.
Sharing details of an alleged audio conversation between Shakeel and Rashid, he said the PTI leader had asked the VP to visit Zaman Park with her along with the man who was driving the vehicle. He claimed that Rashid had then visited with the senior leadership of the PTI at Zaman Park and conveyed details of the accident. She had then told Shakeel not to worry and to “go rest.”
Recalling that elections in Punjab were to take place on April 30, he lamented that efforts were underway to disrupt the law and order situation. “They should have staged their rally a couple of days after,” he said, referring to the PTI announcing a rally on the same as the Aurat March during a restive security situation. “I have been accused of murder. Is it that easy to level murder accusations on someone?” he said, adding that despite knowing Bilal had died in an accident, the PTI was seeking the registration of a FIR for murder. “Don’t make false accusations and mislead everyone,” he said.
Speaking with media, the IGP said he did not wish to comment until the investigation was completed so he could convey accurate, verifiable information. He said the probe had been launched even before Bilal’s father, Liaquat Ali, appealed for an investigation into his son’s death, adding he wished to ensure justice was delivered to the mourning father.
Noting that initial investigations had focused on police—to ensure no custodial torture had occurred—he said the two people who had brought Ali to hospital in a 4×4 vehicle had both been arrested and would be presented before court. He also confirmed that the vehicle that had been used to bring Bilal to hospital belonged to Shakeel.
Stressing that Bilal had been killed due to an accident, he noted that the people who had brought him to hospital had attempted to revive him and CCTV footage showed them trying to ensure he was still alive. He also rubbished questions raised by the postmortem report, saying the blunt force trauma visible on the deceased’s body was a result of his collision with the car. He also maintained that the video circulating on social media about Bilal was fake.
Police have found evidence against claims made by PTI through the hard work of its technical team, he claimed. “The conspiracy has failed,” he said, adding that action would be taken against any police if it were proven that they had abused PTI workers.
Sharing details of the vehicle involved in the incident, the IGP said it was recovered with the help of 31 CCTV cameras and GPS from Waris Shah Road. Stressing that there was no conspiracy to kill the PTI worker, he vowed that the Punjab Police would share the investigation with Ali’s father. “We promise to present all the evidence to Zille Shah’s father,” he vowed.
The Punjab government has issued a timeline of the events that led up to Bilal’s death:
5:58 p.m. – PTI workers are released from a prison van
6:24 p.m. – Black Revo vehicle travels from Joseph colony toward Mian Mir Bridge
6:25 p.m. – accident occurs on Mian Mir Bridge, as indicated by the accused driver
6:27 p.m. – Revo crosses Fortress check post with the injured Bilal
6:29 p.m. – vehicle reaches Fortress Chowk
6:31 p.m. – vehicle reaches south gate of Hyperstar
6:46 p.m. – vehicle moves toward Mall Road
6:47 p.m. – vehicle crosses Siddique Trade Center
6:48 p.m. – vehicle crosses Shalimar Hotel
6:50 p.m. – vehicle reaches Services Hospital Bus Stop
6:52 p.m. – vehicle reaches Services Hospital
7:05 p.m. – vehicle leaves Services Hospital
7:08 p.m. – vehicle reaches Mozang Chowk
7:11 p.m. – vehicle reaches Qartaba Chowk
The PTI has rejected the caretaker Punjab government’s investigation, claiming it is attempting to “cover-up” Bilal’s killing in police custody. In a posting on Twitter, PTI leader Hammad Azhar claimed the postmortem report “proved” that the caretaker government was lying about Bilal’s “murder.”
The PTI, since Bilal’s body was found at Services Hospital, has claimed that he was killed during clashes between police and the party’s workers outside Zaman Park on Wednesday. At the time, Section 144 had been imposed in Lahore over “serious security threats” and police had sought to disperse a planned PTI rally from Zaman Park to Data Darbar.
Amidst the mounting outrage, police had formed a two-member committee to probe the killing. At the same time, a FIR was registered by police against PTI leaders, including Imran Khan, for the alleged murder of Bilal and injuries to 13 police personnel during the protest.