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LAHORE: The Punjab government on Tuesday presented the Model Town inquiry report in-camera before a full bench of the Lahore High Court so that it could be personally analysed by the judges.

Special Home Secretary Dr Shoaib brought the report to the court on the directives of the bench hearing the government’s intra-court appeal which challenged an earlier court decision directing publication of the report.

Earlier, Barrister Syed Ali Zafar, representing the legal heirs of those killed in the 2014 Model Town incident, opened his arguments by calling for the publication of the report, famously known as the “Najafi Report”. He said this was a case in which the police, in broad daylight, had killed 13 innocent people and injured more than a hundred women and children.

He argued that the Punjab government, under immense pressure from the public, had constituted a judicial tribunal for the purpose of finding out what the actual facts were and fix responsibility accordingly. However, he said, the government had refused to publish the report which suggested that the report must have pointed out the involvement of higher-ups in the government.

Barrister Zafar said the government’s argument regarding its privilege (to keep the report a secret) was strange because all information with the government belonged to the people. This was the principle of democracy, he argued. “The government cannot claim that the Najafi Report is for the eyes of the government only,” he added.

Under the Qanoon-i-Shahadat Order 1984, a report by a tribunal was a public document and the government was duty-bound to publish it. Relying on the concept of “freedom of speech” under Article 19 of the Constitution, he argued that this right could not be exercised if “access to information” was restricted.

The counsel said the government had wrongly claimed that the Najafi Report would prejudice anyone or restrict administration of justice. In fact, the report was an aid and a tool to ensure that justice was done in such cases where the government itself might be involved, he said.

Mr Zafar will continue his arguments on Nov 16.

The bench comprising Justice Abid Aziz Sheikh, Justice Syed Shahbaz Ali Rizvi and Justice Qazi Muhammad Amin Ahmad returned the report to the special secretary after examining it in their chambers.

Published in Dawn, November 15th, 2017