From his lofty perch is Lahore, Shahbaz Sharif has issued an order to launch a judicial inquiry into the child abuse scandal that has come to light in Kasur. Judging from past instances, his part is done, now he can go back to merrily playing city maker, and micromanaging flower arrangements along the Lahore Canal Road. The crime is sickening, but the apathy shown by the Punjab government puts even child molesters to shame. The pattern is textbook; the police cover up the crime, the government plays down the allegations, and if the outcry gets unbearable, a judicial inquiry is launched, which inevitably winds itself into oblivion. A judicial inquiry is not the answer. The Punjab government must do more, Shahbaz Sharif must do more.

Whereas the Chief Minister used to infamously take ‘notice’ of pressing matters to indicate his diligence, now he form judicial inquiries – perhaps aware of the fact that the public has wised up to the trick. In the end, both are the same: a political step taken to assure the voters that the government cares, while doing nothing to solve the actual issue. All ad-hoc inquiries such as this are hamstrung from the start. They have no independent force to investigate matters themselves, and must rely on what the police choose to divulge to them. Its findings hold no legal standing, it is merely an assessment that the government can chose to ignore – and it often does. The members of the inquiry can be cherry picked to ensure there will be no ‘unwanted surprises’ in the final report, and if there are any, the report can hidden from the public – just as the Model Town shooting report was. A grand judicial inquiry sounds imposing, and lets the government of the hook, and judging by despicable comments from Rana Sanaullah – who termed the whole scandal “baseless”, even in the face of harrowing videos of abuse – that is exactly what the government wants.

Justice will only be served if the actual criminal case is expedited. Federal investigative teams and forensic experts must be brought in, raids must be conducted to apprehend the absconding suspects and the arrested ones must be tried swiftly, publicly and mercilessly. Once that is done, a judicial inquiry can be useful; not to convict the main perpetrators, but to uncover the collusion between them and the police administration that protected such heinous criminals.

The facts are staring us in our face. The police have dragged their feet in investigating the case, only violent protest made them arrest someone. The victims who went to file reports were thrown out, and some were even arrested. Who are the “influential people” who control the police with such authority? Who are the policemen that protect child molesters? Did the local district management willfully ignore the issue? These are the questions a judicial inquiry must answer. Considering that Kasur is a PML-N stronghold, it seems fanciful to expect it.