The investigation into the 2014 Model Town incident has died a thousand deaths, and yet it continues to shamble forward. Five years from the police operation and the government is no closer to placing the blame where it wants to place it, and despite injections of political will and motivation from time to time, the process seems to have finally run out of steam. The latest Lahore High Court (LHC) verdict may just be the final blow that fells this investigation – and the government has no one to blame but itself.

On Friday, a three-judge full bench, with a majority decision of two to one, suspended the new Joint Investigation Team (JIT) formed by the Punjab government to hold a fresh probe into the Model Town incident. The arguments of the petitioners – the accused police officers in the case – that the matter had already been investigated and that the Code of Criminal Procedure (Cr.P.C) and Anti Terrorism Act 1997 did not allow formation of fresh investigation in a case after submission of challan and framing of charges found favour in the court. The legal principle behind this was obvious from the start – the government cannot keep charging or investigating an individual for the same act in perpetuity. Not only is this principle the foundation of the legal maxim of double jeopardy, it is necessary to ensure that the government does not waste its resources chasing a favorable verdict. While an appeal to superior courts still remains an option, it is hoped that the government realizes the futility of its actions and devotes its resources to different and much more exigent problems.

The Model Town Incident was a tragedy, and the victims deserve justice, but if after five years and multiple investigations no political leaders can be held responsible then the government would do well to let the matter die a peaceful death.