On Monday a meeting was held at the Central Police Office of the crime ridden metropolis of Karachi - presided over by counter-terrorism department (CTD) additional inspector general Dr Sanaullah Abbasi - to “activate” Sindh’s witness protection program. While the initiative taken by the CTD is commendable, the nature of the conduct previous to it drowns out the praises in resounding criticism.

It took the murder of two witnesses in a high-profile case for the authorities to begin implementing a witness protection law that had been passed three years ago. That statement in itself should display the complete inadequacies of the Sindh provincial government. What makes failure of basic parliamentary duty all the more puzzling is the fact that the Sindh Witness Protection Bill 2013 was passed unanimously - every single MPA felt that this was a worthy cause and the law was framed sensibly. What explains this lapse? Was the bill just a principle statement from the Sindh Assembly, showing support for the idea of witness protection and nothing more? If so, what is the point of them legislating? If the implementation is being held back by a shortage of funds and resources then that too is the fault of the provincial assembly; it is their job to legislate to get funding and to make law based on an informed opinion on the national finances. If this was an executive decision making body in a corporate environment they would all have been fired for gross inadequacy and dereliction of duty. Alas, we have to wait years before we can re-elect then to uselessness again.

Right now the funds haven’t been released, safe houses haven’t been set up, and not even the administrative team has been assembled. Only now the CTD is writing to the provincial government - a process that is fraught with red tape and bound to be lengthy - to allocate funds and houses. Even if extending the service to all citizens is impossible at the moment, protection for witnesses in high profile cases related to terrorism and political figures is necessary, specially in Karachi. It is astounding the lack of diligence shown by the government when we consider the number of embarrassing cases where murders of witnesses have disrupted convictions. Yet the Sindh government and the CTD can begin to wipe of that shame if the expedite the process of setting up the program. A witness protection program was overdue in 2013, let’s not delay it any longer.