LAHORE - An all-parties conference (APC) convened by Dr Tahirul Qadri on the Model Town tragedy has demanded resignation of Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and a new probe by a Supreme Court-led judicial commission.
Besides condemnation of the Model Town tragedy, the joint communiqué issued at the end of Sunday’s APC demanded dismissal of senior police and civil officials, withdrawal of cases against PAT workers and registration of a new FIR of the incident.
But the outcome of the much trumpeted moot was actually nothing more than a meeting of Qadri’s Pakistan Awami Tehrik (PAT) and its like-minded parties, and there was hardly anything new said in the joint communiqué.
Pakistan People’s Party, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-F, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-S and Jamiat Ulema-e-Pakistan (Noorani group) had declined to accept the invitation to APC.
However, delegations from Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), PML-Q, Awami Muslim League (AML), Jamaat-i-Islami (JI), Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), All Pakistan Muslim League (APML), Jamiat Ulema-i-Pakistan (JUP) Niazi group, Majlis-e-Wahdul Muslimeen, Sunni Ittehad Council, Sindh United Party, and others attended the conference.
One wonders about the rationale of convening such an event when already there was no point of disagreement among the parties attending the meeting on these points. Even the parties which did not attend this meeting would barely find anything objectionable in most of these demands.
Except for the demand that a Supreme Court-led judicial commission should probe the Model Town incident, all other points had already been made public by the PAT leader and his allies.
Seen in the historical perspective, an APC is convened to discuss a certain issue for the purpose of evolving political consensus over it. And, participants of such a meeting are supposed to agree on the future strategy to advance their agenda through a movement or some other mechanism.
A glance at joint communiqué makes it clear that wider consensus already existed over these points among the opposition parties. Prior to convening of APC, almost all the political and religious parties condemned the incident, sought resignation of the Punjab CM Shahbaz Sharif, expressed lack of confidence in the judicial commission and demanded action against police and other officials responsible for the killing of innocent people.
It is also mind-boggling that the so-called APC did not come up with any future course of action the parties might resort to in case the demands are not met by the government. Dr Qadri also did not take questions from journalists after reading out the demands, saying it was not a press conference.
Earlier, opening the proceedings of the APC, Dr Qadri briefed the participants about the tragic incident of June 17. He claimed that not a single bullet was fired by the security guards of Minhajul Quran. He said his sons had given strict orders to the security guards not to retaliate to any police offensive. He said the police personnel fired straight bullets at his home. The commandos from Lahore and others districts were called for the ‘operation’, he claimed. He alleged that the aim of the ‘attack’ was not clearing security barriers but to scare him and his workers.
A video documentary of incident was also shown on the occasion which made the participants tearful. During the three and half hours proceedings, leaders of different parties expressed solidarity with the PAT and condemned police action.
Besides demanding immediate resignation of Punjab CM and other ministers involved, the joint-declaration called upon the President to play his role for getting the CM step down. It further demanded dismissal and immediate arrest of all government machinery involved in the incident including IGP, DIG Operations, home secretary, Lahore DCO, CCPO, SSPs, SP Model Town and SHOs.
The APC demanded a judicial commission comprising three good reputed judges of the Supreme Court who would be acceptable to the victim party. The commission it said should be powerful enough to summon the PM, the CM and federal ministers; and it should set up an inquiry committee comprising honest investigation officers.
The declaration said that June 17 attack was the worst example of state terrorism and government’s tyranny in which straight bullets were fired on unarmed and peaceful citizens. It also alleged desecration of the holy Quran was also committed.
It read, “All FIRs against peaceful protester of Model Town tragedy are rejected as it (protest) is a constitutional right of citizens... It is demanded that the FIR should be registered on the complaint of PAT in the Faisal Town police station.”
Earlier, during the proceedings, Ch Shujaat Hussain named Shahbaz Sharif as Qatil-e-Ala (greatest killer) and General Dyer, an army officer in British Raaj who ordered firing on the people in Jallianwala Bagh of Amritsar, India. He demanded resignation of the CM. He said while the Pakistan army was fighting against the terrorists, an act of state terrorism was committed in Lahore and culture of violence on the opponents was restarted.
Shah Mehmood Qureshi said that his party had condemned the incident at every level and the party chief himself visited the hospital and the PAT secretariat. He said they had demanded resignation of the CM at the earliest. He said the one-judge judicial commission should be dissolved as it was not acceptable to the victims. He said it was not a political issue and if the incident was not probed it would be a big question mark on the institutions.
Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui of the MQM said the incident would be remembered as an act of barbarity in the history. He said if it was not investigated freely, “history would not forgive us”.
Sheikh Rasheed said the incident was planned to scare PAT workers. “Everything was scripted, so there was no hope of justice from the rulers.” According to him, the only option left to seek justice was to take the issue to streets. Ahmed Raza Kasuri of All Pakistan Muslim League said that the government was setting a bad precedence of governance.