LAHORE: The Model Town incident remains fresh in the minds of everyone who was there, especially those whose families were affected by the violence on June 17, 2014.

On that day, Bisma Amjad, then a 14-year-old girl, had just come out of her house with her mother and paternal aunt – both of whom were killed brutally.

“It has been long, but there are parts I cannot forget. Others I have not wanted to think about,” she said while speaking to Dawn.

“There was shelling everywhere, and police were firing indiscriminately. The security barriers were removed. As police began to gate-crash, my mother and aunt held hands and formed a human chain along with others — and would not allow the police to move inside Dr Tahirul Qadri’s home. We all know what happens in riots, but these were peaceful citizens — residents of the area. Police showed absolutely no regard for women.”

Bisma’s mother, Tanzeela Amjad, received a bullet in her head at short range. In a shocking video online, she is seen losing balance and falling to the ground, her head bloody on one side. Behind her, shots being fired can be heard every second. Along with Tanzeela was her sister-in-law, Shazia Murtaza, who was also killed in exactly the same manner. Even today the memory is as disturbing for the family as was the incident at the time.

Qaiser, who is Bisma’s paternal uncle (Shazia’s brother), says they are still standing exactly where they were.

“After the joint investigation team (JIT) was formed under A.D. Khwaja and 90 per cent of the work was done, the hearings began to be postponed.”

Qaiser is angry that the government is not helping. “What happened to all those promises they made while campaigning?” he asks in dismay. “They have used us to score points, and once they got power they have forgotten about us — the victims of this incident.”

Qaiser says Prime Minister Imran Khan had promised that he would take up the Model Town incident first thing after coming to power. But since he took the reins, he has not even mentioned the incident.

To mark the incident, Dr Tahirul Qadri, chairman of the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT), addressed his central working council online and condemned the way the issue was being handled. “The JIT formed by the Supreme Court larger bench has been non-functional and even six years later the victims’ families are being denied justice,” he said. “The Supreme Court had directed the Minhajul Quran leadership to focus on legal routes instead of protesting, which they have honoured to date. The legal proceedings have cost the party millions, but as peace-loving citizens we are still seeking justice. Unfortunately, the change in government did not improve the delivery of justice.”

Dr Qadri also added that the army chief and then chief justice of Pakistan (CJP) Saqib Nisar had both promised to provide them justice.

Addressing the prime minister, Bisma added that the former CJP had placed his hand over her head and had promised speedy justice in her mother’s case.

One of those who were injured that day, Imtiaz Awan, said when the incident took place, some of the workers had been arrested too. Around 100 first information reports had been lodged against them and after a few days in physical remand -- where he claims they were all tortured — they were sent on judicial remand. Some of them remain behind bars even today.

Awan says they had had to appear at least 415 times in court, but the case was at a standstill. The next hearing is on June 27.

“Our side of the story was not being registered in the police station – until the army chief intervened,” he said. “Then proceedings of the first JIT showed that we were the culprits, not the police, which was a blatant lie. We demanded an impartial investigation, so a judicial commission was formed, which submitted a report blaming the PML-N government.”

Those sentenced by the anti-terrorism court (ATC) were being treated terribly, others say.

Muhammad Sultan, who was sentenced to five years in jail by an ATC for protesting the incident, developed a brain tumour, but was taken to a Multan hospital much later. Even as he lay on a hospital bed, his handcuffs were not removed.

PAT President Qazi Zahid Hussain said Sultan’s condition worsened because of lack of timely medical care.

In another case, Bushra Bibi, the 14-year-old daughter of Abdul Latif who is serving a term in Bhakkar jail in the Model Town case, passed away after suffering from a lungs disease. Her incarcerated father however did not get the permission to attend his daughter’s funeral.

“More than 100 of our workers are serving their jail terms for the crime they did not commit, whereas the accused in Model Town case continue to remain at large,” says Noorullah Siddiqui, the PAT central information secretary. “We continue to demand a fair investigation and impartial trial.”

However, Azma Bukhari, the PML-N Punjab information secretary, says that while there was violence from the government’s side which she would not condone, a lot of complications were caused by the PAT lawyers who kept delaying hearings. She also reminds that some police officers also got injured because of firing, which she claims came from the other side.

“And after everything, they are not pursuing the case properly. The fact remains that they want the cases to be prolonged because this gives them a sympathetic edge over everyone else,” Bukhari claims.

Published in Dawn, June 17th, 2020

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