A relief Ali Imran is back

Published October 25, 2020
The writer is a former editor of Dawn.
The writer is a former editor of Dawn.

AFTER the Supreme Court released its detailed reasoning in quashing the reference against Justice Qazi Faez Isa and ruled that the law minister did not follow the law, the obvious question is whether Dr Farogh Naseem will offer his resignation.

Dr Naseem has twice sacrificed his ministerial office when the greatest national cause was served by his resignation. But such a severe rebuke may not prompt him to resign if he feels that only by remaining in office can he continue to best serve the greatest national cause.

The Supreme Court may have delivered a rather humiliating assessment of his conduct but the law minister is a resilient individual who has never been embarrassed by that totally redundant ‘justice’ part of his portfolio, despite observers finding not even an iota of evidence to justify the word’s retention.

I suspect the holder of a very high and mighty office may disagree as the law minister resigned from his office to fight the former’s case in the Supreme Court in order to secure ‘justice’ for the powerful personality and serve the greatest national cause of continuity of the leadership that matters.

Ten days is a long time and many sceptical observers see the ball having been kicked into long grass.

Useful to remind ourselves that at a different point in time the MQM (defunct) supremo Altaf Husain may also not have taken kindly to anyone expressing unkind thoughts about the law minister as he described his former leader as Nelson Mandela II.

Therefore, what’s the big deal if the ‘law’ part of the portfolio has also been shredded by the apex court? If the Supreme Court ruled the reference was “tainted with mala fide in law”, it was equally clear that it was not motivated by ill intent. Greatest national causes rarely are.

Which brings me to the enforcement of the law in Karachi at the start of this week, which was done with an iron fist and without discrimination. PML-N leader Maryam Nawaz’s spouse, retired Capt Safdar, raised political slogans at the graveside of the founder of the nation.

This is prohibited. In addition, someone also alleged that the PML-N politician voiced a threat against his life at the Quaid’s mazar whilst raising pro-democracy slogans there. Ergo, the upholders of the law and the Constitution asked the Sindh police to arrest Mr Safdar.

The Sindh police remained reticent, so, a source told Al Jazeera English’s reporter Asad Hashim, some nine vehicles carrying heavily armed paramilitary personnel arrived at the residence of the Sindh IG in the small hours; a couple of security officials entered his home, and forced him to accompany them to their office.

As dawn was breaking, it was there that the Sindh IG, and reportedly the Karachi police chief, faced the wrath of the real law-enforcement officials, succumbed to the iron fist, and agreed to uphold the law and ordered the arrest of the PML-N leader. When police officials are forced to comply with the law there can be no greater or better example of indiscriminate enforcement of the law.

However, later it turned out that what happened was actually a gross violation of the law, and the manner in which the Sindh IG was taken by force from his home to another location was tantamount to kidnapping.

When the PPP leadership went public with this allegation against the backdrop of en masse protest leave applications from dozens of Sindh Police top officials because of the atrocious treatment handed out to their commanders, a crisis appeared on the cards.

However, literally minutes after Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari made his protest public and called upon the army chief to intervene and inquire into such excesses, the latter telephoned the PPP leader and pledged an inquiry, headed by Commander, 5 Corps, into the episode and a report within 10 days.

Ten days is a long time and many sceptical observers, including this columnist, saw this as the ball having been kicked into long grass. We are already at the halfway mark, ie day five, after the incident, and are eagerly waiting to be proved wrong with a transparent inquiry report that assigns responsibility and also suggests action against the IG’s kidnappers.

However, as the weekend was approaching, another supposed kidnapping, this time of a journalist, has shaken confidence again that any transparent probe will happen. Ali Imran Syed is one of GeoTV’s Karachi reporting team.

He somehow found and aired CCTV footage from Avari Hotel, establishing two facts that were being disputed by the government. One, that nobody entered Maryam Nawaz’s room to arrest her husband. The CCTV shows uniformed policemen entering the room after some sort of fracas at the door.

And, secondly, the CCTV footage shows a vehicle of the paramilitary force parked across the hotel entrance, blocking it as Capt Safdar’s arrest was being effected, rubbishing official suggestions that the whole operation was conducted by the police.

By bringing these facts to the public, who have a right to know, and doing his job properly, Ali Imran brought immense hardship on his family and loved ones and only God know what he went through in captivity. What would explain the timing of his ‘disappearance’ other than his last report? In fact, it was just as I was filing this column that news was breaking that Ali Imran’s family was saying he has returned. Nothing more is known at the time of writing. But what a relief that he is reunited with his loved ones and is safely at home.

We have asked before whether the PDM campaign and the Sharif father-daughter duo’s belligerence will succeed in creating breathing room for politics of dissent in the country or lead to more oppression. When the chief protagonists of the greatest national cause are challenged, the situation can’t remain as it has.

The writer is a former editor of Dawn.


Published in Dawn, October 25th, 2020


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