After many false starts and missteps it seems that the fight for justice in the Naqeebullah Mehsud’s fake encounter case is finally on track. More than a year after the Waziristan native’s ‘extrajudicial killing’, the prime accused, former Malir SSP Rao Anwar has been indicted on the charges of murder by an anti-terrorism court (ATC) in Karachi on Monday. This case is leagues away from conclusion and a conviction is far from guaranteed, but given the irregular – and oftentimes suspiciously inconsistent – handling of the case an indictment is a step in the right direction, one that needs to be commended.

Despite an inquiry team probing the January 2018 killing concluding that Naqeebullah was killed in a “fake encounter” which was “staged” by the former Malir SSP, we cannot be certain of guilt before a court of law has concluded its proceedings. This is especially true since Rao Anwar has pleaded not guilty. Despite multiple reliable accounts of how this “encounter specialist” operated with impunity in Karachi it is necessary to let the law run its course.

But it is this very course that has been tampered with in the past – which not only casts aspersions on the credibility of Rao Anwar, but further highlights his connections in high places which have stalled this trial. From generous ‘house arrests’ to favorable court rulings, Rao Anwar has received an inordinate amount of “relief” by the court. With this indictment, and the strongly worded statements of the judges presiding in the case, it is hoped that this discriminatory practice stops.

The blatant and public abuse of the law to favor influential individuals is a serious concern in its own right, but Rao Anwar and Naqeebullah have become symbols of a much larger battle. The killing and the lazy official response that followed spawned the agitation that is now the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM). The unequal power equation between the state and its citizens and its violent and discriminatory manifestation is a core cause for the PTM. This trial is a test case for the state’s assurances to the PTM; the more “irregularities” we witness in the prosecution of Rao Anwar the stronger the PTM’s objections become.

The puzzling fact is that the government, despite knowing all of this, continues to allow this trial to be a cause for further discord. The ATC has taken a positive step by indicting the former SSP, now the government must prosecute with zeal and diligence.