A video surfacing the internet showing a Sindh MPA (Member Provincial Assembly) manhandling a citizen has created quite a storm on social media and brought back the debate of VIP culture and abusive exercise of power. The video shows MPA Imran Ali Shah, accompanied by armed guards, physically attacking a motorist in broad daylight on the roads of Karachi, prompting allegations of abuse of power.

It is noteworthy that the accused MPA is from Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), a party which has made anti-VIP culture and curtailing excessive of power part of its leading priorities in government. After outrage reminding PTI of its promises of eliminating VIP culture, the party has responded by issuing a show cause notice to Imran Ali Shah, with PTI’s Karachi wing president Dr Firdous Naqvi tweeted that he was looking into the matter. The contentious MPA himself has released another video where he apologised for “hurting anyone’s feelings” but justified his actions claiming he attacked the motorist because he was abusing another poor man.

It is a welcome change that there was at least semblance of accountability from the political party that we received an apology. However, regrettably, it was a long way from the accountability PTI promised us, as the apology from the MPA is a non-apology, with him trying to blame the victim.. Shah also disputed that he never physically beat the man but merely pushed him, which is completely contrary to the video evidence, thus making this weak attempt at an apology just a promotional tool to clamp the outrage. Even if we take the apology at face value, vigilante justice has been the cause of many problems and should be taken action against.

PTI has won in this election with the promise of instrumental change, not just surface-level lip service. If the party is absolutely serious about eliminating VIP culture and instances of abuses by the powerful against ordinary citizens, then this incident provides it a good opportunity to demonstrate that it can walk the walk by taking proper action against Shah, and not just settling for a half-baked apology. An apology should not absolve an elected MPA from a serious breach of law and exercise of his power and privilege. Assault is a crime- even if caused by grave provocation- and under the penal code, it carries up to 3 months imprisonment. Holding his party member accountable would be a good move for Imran Khan, who has built his career railing against VIP culture.