It was impressive the way that Ch Nisar seemed to awake on events in Youhanabad, especially the way he noticed that the Christians had burnt two persons, not so much for having bombed the churches there, but for having had the potential to do so. The woman who escaped alive during the protests the day after, by running down several protesters, was in a way symbolic. Like the protesters, she was hard done by. But her actions hardly covered her with glory. True, she might plead self-defence. But she should find that claim tested by the standard of excessive force.

Of course, she might have done what the police force accompanying the city’s police chief did, which was to run away. Of course, that has been converted into a positive. After all, at least the Lahore police did not do what it had done in June, quite nearby, to PAT workers. There is a coincidence at work, for the PAT chief, Dr Tahirul Qadri, was elected to the National Assembly for the only time with the votes of the good people of Youhanabad, and when they get around to arresting those who burnt the two men, it would be to him the heirs would turn, to get their loved ones released. Him being in Canada, that might be problematic, and they could turn to the MNA, Shafqat Mehmood of the PTI. However, he was busy with the agreement (at last!) with the government over the TORs of the commission which will probe the last election.

Incidentally, one doesn’t know if his party chief is glad or sad at Pakistan’s quarter-final elimination from the World Cup. It seems that even knowing about Chris Gayle’s paternal grandmother’s bowling average didn’t work this time. And it makes one wonder about 1992. Maybe the bookies let Pakistan win because no one wanted Imran to stage a sit-in outside the MCG. Remember, this is the man who had campaigned for neutral umpires in his cricketing days. And he is still pushing for neutral umpires… Well, anyway, Misbahul Haq would probably have made a bad PM. And he is the leper for not getting us the leprosy hospital he would have built otherwise.

Still, contacting Shafqat Mahmood is not the only problem the Christians of Youhanabad face. There’s competition for attention. It seems that Christians are having a bad time in the Subcontinent, what with a nun raped in Kolkata, and then a newly-built church taken over by Hindu extremists in Gujarat. BJP leader Subrahmaniam Swamy said on a visit to Assam that churches and mosques were just buildings. Swamy shows the difference between the two countries. Here, militants must conduct suicide bombings. In India, they join the Cabinet. Either way, Christians get killed.

In Pakistan, not only Christians get killed. On Tuesday and Wednesday, 21 people were hanged in jails all over the country. That was supposed to end militancy, though all it did was expose the system. First, these people should already have been executed. For the crimes of which they were convicted, not the Peshawar school massacre. There was a new meaning given to the phrase ‘worked off;, which was the term memorably used by Dennis, the hangman in Barnaby Rudge, to refer to those whom he practiced his craft on. It is worth noting that that novel by Dickens was the only one in which he dealt with an episode of British history, and he chose sectarian extremism (the Gordon riots of the 18th century, which were anti-Catholic). However, what is happening in India shows what happens if you elect religious hardliners like the BJP to office.

The cases of Shafqat Hussain and Saulat Mirza might also be held up as examples of what is wrong with the system. Neither was executed, even though they were scheduled to be ‘worked off.’ Shafqat’s case is apparently clear. Was he an adult when he committed the murder he is accused of? Did he commit it? He was made to confess during a police interrogation. Well, only members of criminal castes take pride in not buckling under police investigation (bakya na’in). That way, they get to keep the buffaloes they have stolen. Well, Shafqat was accused of murder, not buffalo theft.

Saulat Mirza is not supposed to have been a minor when he committed his murders, but he claimed that MQM chief Altaf Hussain was behind the murder of KESC chief Shahid Hamid, as was MQM leader Babar Ghauri. True, they could claim that that is how one should deal with electricity officials, but murder is frowned upon as a response to loadshedding. Still, it might start a trend. No longer will murder convicts go to the gallows protesting their innocence. Instead, they will confess, and accuse someone prominent of having put them up to it. The stay of execution will be for investigation, but from the point of view of the person to be hanged, it will be a stay.

Ch Nisar also brought up this to the British High Commissioner when they met. Altaf is in the UK, and has been naturalized. The Dr Imran Farooq case emerged afterwards. Of course, Altaf shouldn’t even be accused. If the policemen accused of the Hashimpura-Maliana massacre in 1987 can be acquitted of killing 82 Muslim young men and dumped in the canal, why not Altaf?

However, the shooting of Dr Shakil Afridi’s lawyer is something all lawyers would condemn. It’s hard enough having clients like Shafqat Hussain or Saulat Mirza hanged, but being shot by someone is unfair. Even the worst of persons has the right to a lawyer. Even someone who fingered Osama bin Laden for assassination. So why shoot the lawyer?