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Margalla villagers to protest man’s death in accident involving US diplomat

    ISLAMABAD: Villagers from the Margalla Hills will protest in the capital against the killing of a young man by an American diplomat in a road accident.

    Hours after filing a petition with the Islamabad High Court (IHC) over the accident, the victim’s father, Mohammad Idrees, told Dawn that the family of the deceased and villagers from the Margallas would protest on Friday at the same spot where the accident occurred last week.

    They will gather at Daman-i-Koh traffic signal at noon on Friday, he said, adding: “Our only demand is justice for the deceased.”

    Charge sheet to be submitted next week, investigating officer says

    The protest will demand action against the suspect according to the law, Mr Idrees said, adding that the suspect should not be freed without legal action and should be convicted according to the law.

    Mr Idrees, a retired hawaldar from the Pakistan Army who now works as a watchman at a government school in Saidpur village, said that his son, 22-year-old Atiq Baig and his cousin Raheel Ahmed, were heading to a hotel in Jinnah Super Market where Baig worked. On their way to the hotel, they were hit by a United States embassy car driven by an American diplomat who jumped the red light.

    “The police registered a case against him the same day and told me action could not be taken against him because he was a diplomat,” Mr Idrees said. He added that police officials visited the family to offer condolences after the incident.

    He said the family has so far not been approached by the police or investigators in connection with the case, including for investigation and statements.

    “We were told by the police that the Kohsar police station house officer (SHO), Inspector Khalid Awan, was suspended, and investigation into the case would start after the appointment of a new SHO,” he said.

    He said the family has approached the IHC as well, and alleged that the police had deliberately registered the case under a weak section of the Pakistan Penal Code; the case has been registered under section 320 (punishment for qatl-i-khata by rash or negligent driving) instead of section 322 (punishment for qatl-bis-sabab).

    He claimed that the police had also favoured the suspect by not taking him to a hospital for a medical examination, and that he had been driving under the influence.

    In response to a question about contact with US officials in the capital, including regarding condolence, Mr Idrees said neither US officials nor Pakistani officials had contacted him for any reason, including to offer their condolences.

    However, two or three officers had contacted the family for condolence, he said.

    When asked about blood money, the victim’s father said the family had not been approached in this regard, and if an offer is made the matter will be decided by their kin’s jirga.

    Officials from the Police Prosecution Department said there was no law or concept of blood money in the US and would not be applicable if the trial is conducted in an American court.

    Blood money can only be paid if the case is tried in a Pakistani court, they said. Either the complainant or the suspect has to submit a written statement or agreement in the trial court stating that they have reached an agreement and the suspect has been pardoned either against blood money or in the name of Allah.

    But this will only be possible after the US embassy sends the case to the local courts, they added.

    The investigating officer, Inspector Arshad Ali from the homicide unit, said the charge sheet is almost complete, except for a few verifications regarding the diplomat.

    The charge sheet will be submitted to the Foreign Office by the Kohsar SHO when complete, which, he said, would be either this week or the next.

    The family of the deceased had earlier filed a petition in the IHC asking for the diplomat’s name to be placed on the exit control list (ECL).

    According to the police, the interior ministry has already initiated the process, and the local police have sent a written request for US Defence and Air Attaché Col Joseph Emanuel Hall’s name to be placed on the ECL.

    The petition has asked the IHC to direct the interior secretary to place Mr Hall on the ECL, and for the police to be asked to provide details of Pakistani citizens killed in road accidents by foreigners.

    Mr Hall jumped a red light at Daman-i-Koh Chowk on April 7 and allegedly hit a motorcycle carrying two passengers.

    Both passengers were injured; Atiq Baig later died while Raheel Ahmed is being treated for multiple injuries, including fractures, at a hospital.

    The matter was also briefly discussed in the National Assembly Wednesday morning, after MNA Naeema Kishwar asked Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif about the incident.

    Mr Asif said the diplomat is in the country and the police are investigating the case. He said the US embassy has also assured them of its cooperation with the investigation, and assured the house the incident will be dealt with according to the law.

    Published in Dawn, April 12th, 2018

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