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LAHORE: The Punjab government categorically rejected Justice Ali Baqar Najafi’s report on Tuesday, terming it “defective in the eyes of the law” and with “no legal impact”.

Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah released the report on the June 2014 Model Town case, in which 14 workers of the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) were killed, at a press conference following the Lahore High Court’s verdict in this regard. He presented arguments for why the government had held on to the report for so long, and, like other hawks in the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, took a jab at Justice Najfi, claiming that he had relied heavily on evidence that was “irrelevant” to the incident.

“This report is inconclusive, ambiguous, incomplete and defective in the eyes of the law. It did not fix responsibility on anyone. Instead it was left to the leaders (of this report) to fix responsibility. I have never seen such an inquiry report before,” said a visibly unhappy Mr Sanaullah, adding that the single-member tribunal’s report was based on “source reports by intelligence agencies”, but did not contain any of these reports. Pointing out certain flaws in the report, Mr Sanaullah said it contained some ‘sectarian elements’. “But let me make it clear... police had never been trained on sectarian grounds,” he stressed.

The minister defended his boss, Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, saying that there were “no points” in the report which held the chief minister responsible. “When the matter was brought to the notice of Shahbaz Sharif, he ordered ‘disengagement’ (of those taking part in the operation). The report’s claim that the chief minister had not taken timely action (to stop the police) is doubtful,” he said, adding that the judge had never summoned the chief minister to confront him on his statement.

Sanaullah says govt was advised by former chief justice not to make report public

While trying to explain why it had been necessary for the provincial government to keep the report confidential for so long, the law minister appeared to contradict himself at times by insisting that the report carried nothing of legal consequence. “It may create problems for someone else but not for us,” he said.

The law minister explained: “We were not making this report public only because it might hurt the sentiments of a sect... Besides, the report was only for the government and not for anyone else’s consumption. Former LHC chief justice Khalilur Rehman Khan, who was requested to review the report, had advised the government not to accept it.”

Elaborating on the role he had played in the Model Town incident, which had cost him his ministry for some time, Mr Sanaullah said he had ordered the removal of barricades in front of Dr Tahirul Qadri’s Model Town residence. He said that the government had also received reports that there was firing by both sides. “Tahirul Qadri should be asked who had ordered a gathering of his workers and asked them to get ready for martyrdom that day.”

Published in Dawn, December 6th, 2017