Killings still haunt govt

LAHORE –  Although Justice Baqir’s report has been made public following the court order, the issue raised by Pakistan Awami Tehreek to account for the killing of 14 workers is likely to haunt the government.

The one-member commission of inquiry was formed on the request of the Punjab government, which prepared the report. The government has found nothing against it in the report and held the same quite harmless to implicate any of its functionaries and security personnel in the case other than those already named in the under-trial case. The government appears much satisfied after release of the report which has, however, been rejected by the PAT as not that prepared by Justice Najfi. As such it has accused the government of tampering the report for keeping it a secret for a long time. The present publication of the report, the government says, has been made public on the court order after it had seized of the matter. But the question arises why the government kept the whole nation under tension, ignoring the demand for making it public for a long time if it contained nothing against it.

The whole nation faced countrywide protests of the PAT and over a two-month-long dharna which by and large revolved around the demand for making the report public. The question arises why the government failed to feel pulse of the time and delayed publication of the report when it was handed over to it and when there was no legal wrangling.

The Punjab government is now trying to sell the arguments against not making the report public immediately that it was vulnerable to confuse the mind and was open to let the people draw their own conclusion for the report had left a void for it. Hence apprehensions of rifts on various grounds loomed large and the government wanted to avoid the same. But the point is whether the fear is over now or the government has worked out a strategy to counter the backlash against a chaotic situation adopting a different and harsher mode than what it pursued earlier, say the political observers.

Another grey area about the published report relates to concealment of the findings of the intelligence agencies on the incident, which the government had termed not part of the commission proceedings. Again the point is whether the reports of the agencies had little or more material that was used by the commission. As such these reports had some value for public consumption to know the ground on which a finding was made or impression drawn by the commission, say the observers.

The PAT has expressed reservations over not making the agencies reports public, so another issue may arise in the coming days.

The things are not satisfactory for the PAT; rather the situation has become more complicated as none of the persons it had held responsible for the incident is in the frame of accountability. On the other hand, the government through the report has found its hands clean in the Model Town carnage.

Anyhow, the responsibility for killing 14 people needs to be fixed precisely on those who carried out the operation and those who were behind it. In this background, it appears the case has become difficult for the PAT to prove its own innocence and find out the actual perpetrators of the bloodbath. As such it is likely to come up with the new line of action.

After the release of the report, the PAT dharna threat has largely evaporated, which is an instant relief for the government which cannot afford this practice once again in the city after the recently held sit-in of Tehreek Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah that is still smouldering to turn into flames.

What appears from the existing situation, the difficult time is not over and the government needs to act very carefully to avoid violence and a terrible episode.

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