It would not be far-fetched to say that the Sahiwal tragedy, where the Punjab Police’s Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) had killed four people including three family members in an anti-terrorism operation, has been disastrous for the Punjab government. Amidst Joint Investigation Team (JIT) reports and compensation to the victims, the Punjab provincial assembly members are causing further damage by giving confused and contradictory stances on the CTD operation.

While testifying before the Senate Standing Committee on Interior on Friday, Punjab government officials did not leave the impression of a cool and collective government. Punjab Home Secretary Fazeel Asghar and the province’s Inspector General of Police (IGP) Amjad Javed Saleemi gave contradictory statements about Zeeshan Javed, one of the deceased in the Sahiwal shooting, and his alleged involvement in terrorist activities. Fazeel Asghar first told the committee that Zeehan Javed was a terrorist and was the real target of CTD and that CTD officials had no idea about two passengers, mother and daughter. However, in the same sitting, the Punjab police chief in his briefing to the committee contradicted the stance of the Punjab Home Secretary and said that some operational evidence indicates about Zeeshan having links with a terrorist organisation but concrete evidence against him has yet to be searched out. The chair of the committee, Rehman Malik, concluded the meeting by announcing that the committee would wait for the Lahore High Court’s decision regarding formation of judicial commission for investigation to make any further statements on this issue.

This is not the first time that the government has received criticism for the lack of cohesion in its stance on the Sahiwal tragedy and for making ill-advised and flippant remarks on this issue. During debate on law and order at the Punjab Assembly on Friday, the opposition legislators harshly criticised Provincial ministers for accepting presence of Daesh (ISIS) in the province in contradiction to the claims of the federal government. The opposition legislators pointed out that the government had so far failed to provide any evidence of ISIS interference.

The criticism is warranted. The Sahiwal tragedy is certainly a dark mark on the legacy of this government, even if it was at fault or not, and the government has to shoulder the responsibility of handling the aftermath of it. The government’s inability to get the story straight, despite the passage of time, weakens the government’s image in the eyes of the public.