CTD botched operation in Chilas: What went wrong?
Chilas (TP) July 28, 2020: The Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD)’s ill-planned and ill-conceived midnight raid at a house of accused Ilaj Azam in Ronai Muhalla Chilas in Gilgit-Baltistan virtually boomeranged and as a result, at least five police officials including Sub-Inspector Sohrab Khan and two civilians including a university student died in the ensuing encounter.
The Punch talked to locals including local journalists and police officials and during the initial conversation, it transpired that the whole plan was conceived and launched by the CTD at the behest of their informer named Basharat, a resident of Jaglot, who also died during the crossfire.
According to credible sources, accused Ilaj Azam — who was also a relative of informer Basharat — was accused of killing a woman in Jaglot some three years back and he was on bail after he entered into a reluctant accord with the family of the slain woman.
According to the sources, Ilaj Azam and Basharat lived together in Jaglot when the woman was murdered in Jaglot and Ilaj Azam, the main murder accused, later relocated to Chilas after getting bail from a local court after his arrest.
However, according to some sources, Basharat, who was the relative of Ilaj Azam, reportedly tipped-off the CTD team about the presence of illegal and sophisticated ammunition at the house of Ilaj Azam in Ronai Muhalla and he took the team to raid the house.
According to the sources, Basharat and Ilaj Azam had developed differences after the killing of the woman in Jaglot and Basharat wanted to save his own skin by getting Ilaj Azam arrested as he (Basharat) was facing life threats from the aggrieved family (of the slain woman) in Jaglot.
According to the local people, Ilaj Azam and his family, who originally hailed from Niat, live in Ronai Muhalla Chilas and at the time of the raid, Ilaj Azam was not present at his residence.
According to the locals, when CTD team along with informer Basharat barged the house of Ilaj Azam — the main accused — the house occupants opened fire on the raiding team, who, according to some claims, was not wearing proper protective gears and that led to the casualties.
According to the locals, the house occupants took the CTD team’s raid as an affront and they opened fire as the raid had been carried out at midnight and without taking the Chilas police on board.
During the CTD raid, Azhar Ullah, the younger brother of Ilaj Azam and a student of NUML University Islamabad and informer Basharat also died.
The locals, who spoke to The Punch, said that in Chilas, people keep heavy ammunition for their protection and at least one or two members of almost every family stay awake at night because of widespread enmities and they consider even the police as intruders, if they raid at night, without taking the elders or a religious figure on board.
The locals also said that at the time of the raid, Ilaj Azam was not present at his residence and no huge cache of ammunition was recovered. This claim could not be verified independently.
Another source claimed that the aggrieved family of the slain woman in Jaglot, through Basharat, had bribed the CTD team to raid the house of Ilaj Azam and get him at any costs and the CTD personnel were not even wearing the uniform when the arid occurred. This claim could not be verified, however.
When contacted, AIG CTD Hafeez, who was in Islamabad with the GB chief minister as a security officer, while talking to The Punch claimed that the CTD team had raided the house on credible information.
The CTD officer claimed that Azhar Ullah and Ilaz Azam both were wanted to the police as, according to him, they were involved in keeping and trading illegal and heavy weapons.
When asked why the CTD team did not take the Chilas police on board before raiding the house, Hafeez said that the CTD does not take any police of any district on board for such raids and this particular case was no exception.
The CTD police officer refuted the assertion that the raiding team was not wearing protective gears and added that since the house occupant possessed heavy weapons, the CTD team had to suffer. He said that had their information (about ammunition in the house) been wrong, how the house occupants used such huge ammunition to retaliate the police.
AIG Hafeez said that he was on way to Gilgit and he would share more information once he reached the actual scene of the incident.
A senior police officer in Chilas, who talked to The Punch said that the CTD did not take to take the local police on board in such raids. He, however, said that it was a misconceived and hastily carried out the raid and this was a big loss for the CTD as well as GB police force. The police officer said that it seemed the informer had misled the CTD team and they were gathering more and more information to link the nitty-gritty details to reach a conclusion.
Senior journalist Shabbir Mir while talking to The Punch said that the losses of police personnel lives could squarely be blamed on the intelligence failure. He said that had the purpose of the raid been a high-value target, the CTD should have worked on it properly before raiding the house and in this way, the losses could have been averted.
Meanwhile, a large number of people have blocked the Karakoram Highway in Chilas while placing the body of Azhar Ullah Izhaullah, a student of NUML University.
The protesters said that the CTD raid was unwarranted that resulted in the death of Azhar Ullah and one of his cousins.
Azharullah was waiting for the university to reopen after Eid-ul-Azha. He was living with his cousin who worked in a block factory. They lived in a rented house.
A local protester said that if there was an FIR against them, they should have been arrested at day time and the inncent people were killed in an uncalled for raid. The protesters said that they will continue to block the KKH until the culprits were brought to justice.