Model Town case

Published June 18, 2020

THE sixth anniversary of the brutal killing outside the residence-office complex of Pakistan Awami Tehreek chief Tahirul Qadri is a chilling reminder of how a clash of various interests, not least of them political, can turn a push for justice into a secondary exercise. Squabbling leads to a confused state that facilitates escape rather than the holding of a fair trial. The trend may not be peculiar to Pakistan but we witness it all too frequently in its various manifestations here. The June 17 Model Town anniversary is just one more blot on our ignominious calendar — just another instance of citizens being let down by the law of the land. There have been other incidents with smaller or bigger tolls indicating how very insecure and vulnerable to displays of unbridled street power, or deceptive murderous plotting backed by state sanction, Pakistanis can be at a bad moment. Take May 12, 2007, when Karachi was bathed in blood over an administration’s insistence on blocking a chief justice’s reception. Around 50 lives were lost. No one was ever held accountable from among the prime accused.

Six years after the Model Town killings in 2014, there are no answers to who ordered the firing. It appears that the old strategy of defusing the situation by diverting attention to less important actors and later resorting to a politicisation of the affair has worked well against the heirs of the 14 people shot to death and scores of others who were injured. Gullu Butt, a self-avowed vigilante swearing allegiance to the then incumbent PML-N government, was conveniently at the spot to divert early attention from police brutality under the provincial government of Shahbaz Sharif. Later on, Mr Qadri’s inability to delink the case from his close ties with Imran Khan, who was straining to march on Islamabad, ensured only partial support for the Model Town victims in a deeply polarised Lahore — indeed a Pakistan where Mr Qadri was not actually gaining political ground. In power, Mr Khan and his party could never have been expected to take on the system that had led to the Model Town disaster. They confined themselves to targeting the Sharifs separately from the system. Those who rose up and fell before the police that day were always at a disadvantage as they were pitted against those enjoying state sanction. The political crossfire they were caught in made justice even more elusive.

Published in Dawn, June 18th, 2020

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