‘Terrorists wear Pathan suits’: How tribunal justified bail for Machil soldiers
Wearing a Pathan suit in Kashmir can be dangerous, so much so that one can be taken for a terrorist and killed by security forces.
A military tribunal, which granted bail this week to five army soldiers convicted of killing three people in a staged shooting in 2010, said it believed the dead were terrorists because they wore Pathan suits.
In its bail order, the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT), said, “The fact that the accused persons were terrorists… cannot be ruled out because they were wearing Pathan suits which are worn by terrorists.” The flowing Pathan or Pathani suit is a common men’s clothing across Kashmir.
HT has a copy of the order.
The extra-judicial shooting came to be known as the Machil fake encounter in which three civilians were killed in cold blood by soldiers looking to collect a bounty on militants. Subsequently, an army court sentenced six soldiers, including a colonel, to life in jail but five of them went into appeal before the AFT in New Delhi.
The AFT also said they believed the three young men killed were not civilians because they had ventured too close to the de facto border between India and Pakistan, which is often used by militants to travel between the two countries.
“There was absolutely no justification for a civilian to be present at such a forward formation near LoC, that too during the night when infiltration from across the border was high,” the AFT bench said, referring to the heavily militarised de facto boundary or the Line of Control (LoC).
The tribunal is being presided over by Justice V K Shaili and Lt General SK Singh.
In granting bail to the five soldiers, the court also imputed motive behind a delay in filing of a police complaint by the parents of the dead men.
The bench said, “Complaint was belatedly filed only to garner some sympathy or getting material monetary compensation on account of the alleged killing of their child.”
The so-called Machil encounter saw three men - Shazad Khan (27), Shafi Lone (19) and Riyaz Lone (20) –killed in a staged shooting in the early hours of April 30, 2010 at Sona Pindi in Machil sector of the LoC.
Later, investigations found the three were lured with the promise of jobs to an army camp in Kupwara where they were shot dead by soldiers looking to claim a reward for killing militants.
The bodies were buried in a local graveyard. The staged gun battle was later exposed by the state police after the families of the victims filed a missing report.
A subsequent army inquiry also upheld the police findings and court-martialed the soldiers.
The Machil killings triggered a cycle of violent street protests in Kashmir that left more than 100 people dead that year. It was also the first time in Kashmir that army personnel, including a colonel, were given life terms for extra-judicial killings.
The bench also questioned why three civilians would be in “combat Pathan fatigue with ammunition belts around their waists and carry firearms”.
“If a person is a civilian, he would certainly not be in combat uniform, much less he would carry fire arms and ammunition with him,” the bench concluded in its bail order.