The killing of Tahir Khan Dawar, the SP Rural Peshawar, was shocking enough, but even more shocking was the lack of reaction by the government. Perhaps part of the reason is the decline in the ability of the government to respond, in the decline of the good old Basta alif and Basta bey, or the ‘A’ and ‘B’ registers. Both contained the names of the area’s ‘bad characters’ or ‘badmaashes’. They were divided in Basta alif, and Basta bey. The first were those who had to seek permission to go outside the area for more than one night. The second were those who had to report to the police station whenever summoned. Usually, if you made it to one basta, then you were included in the second. And in the days of the Raj, if a cop was killed, not an officer, just an ordinary foot constable, every police station in the province summoned all those in Basta bey. And the SHO made sure that every bad character was beaten within an inch of his life. Those he considered the pick of the lot, he gave personal attention. The idea was not really to capture the guilty, but to convey the message that a lawman might have been downed, but law and order was still there.

But here an SP was kidnapped, transported across two provinces and into Afghanistan, murdered brutally, and his pictures posted on the Internet, and nothing happened. True, under the Raj, a Viceroy was assassinated, and a Governor has been assassinated in Pakistan, while an SP was killed in his office in Jaffarabad in Balochistan, but no one before had dared to kidnap an SP. True, Dawar was a ranker, but he had been posted to the Capital City Police Peshawar, and while he was not kidnapped from his area, it is bad enough that he was kidnapped at all. The entire country’s badmashes should have been summoned to their police stations and been reminded, none too gently, that the law had not faded from the country. Actually, the killing of Jahanzaib Kakar, the DPO Jaffarabad, in 2016, should have shown that all was not well.

We must remember that, lip service aside, the policing method is supposed to be by fear. A police uniform should make one feel unreasoning fear, and the idea of kidnapping a foot constable, let alone an SP, should not arise. The guarantee of eternal life given by barriers, guards and checkpoints (as seen here at the CCPO Office on Queen’s Road) also does not work.

Actually, nothing works. Stan Lee helped create the Marvel Comic Universe, not just in the movies, but originally. Yet he created not just superheroes like Spiderman, the Fantastic Four, Hulk and the X-Men, but also a god, Thor. It didn’t save him, but he lived to nearly 96. His passing had hardly sunk in, when news came of the death of William Goldman, at 87, who won screenwriting Oscars for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and All the President’s Men, the definitive film of Watergate and the fall of Nixon.

Perhaps the passing of such icons should convince Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry that he should make the necessary apology in the Senate to the luminaries he insulted, and get on with his life. And allow everyone else to get on with theirs. After all, even if he has taken an obdurate stand against apologising, he can take comfort in his leader, Imran Khan, declaring that U-turns are about leadership. Fawad Chaudhry was originally the party’s spokesman, and is supposed to be the Cabinet’s, briefing the press about its meetings. At the latest briefing, he said that the Prime Minister had taken serious notice of the ruling. This was then contradicted by the Parliamentary Affairs Minister. Sounds like the time that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo talked to Imran Khan, and neither country knew whether they had spoken about terrorism. Pompeo thought he had, Imran said he didn’t, and it all boiled down to what notes had been taken. One hopes the official notes of the Cabinet are not referred to while resolving this particular dispute.

Particularly since the Senate elections here haven’t gone so well. The decline in the PTI vote indicates that all is not well with the ruling coalition. Especially since the PTI Senators got in only by single-figure majorities. Hovering in the background is the videotape of a call by PTI leaders on Ch Pervez Elahi, in which he is seen airing complaints against Governor Sarwar, whom he seems to blame for not letting the Chief Minister do his thing. The PML(Q) is very much a junior partner, but it seems it has to have the right people posted at the right place. Or else it won’t play. And take away the ball.