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December 8, 2017

A front renewed


December 8, 2017

Given how much politics has been played around the report on the 2014 Model Town incident in which police action led to the death of 14 workers of the Pakistan Awami Tehreek, the Justice Baqir Najafi inquiry report itself has revealed little and almost abdicates the task of placing responsibility. What cannot be denied and has never been denied even by the Punjab government is the gross mishandling of the whole scene which led to the deaths. The Najafi report, though, pretty much asks the reader to come up with their own conclusions about the truth of the incident. That is tragically ironic. An investigation cannot place the burden of truth on the reader. This misses the point of why the inquiry was set up in the first place. The government insists that the police firing was not ordered by any senior officials, but was a police response on the ground after PAT workers fired on them. The Najafi report appears uncertain on this. It does state that Shahbaz Sharif had asked for the police to be withdrawn from the site when reports of skirmishes reached him, but then also points to the gaps in that story. The incident started around 3am when police attempted to remove barricades set up by PAT activists around Qadri’s Model Town residence. It was only around 9:30am that reports of any order to stop the operation emerge. Who was responsible and how? Was it negligence or something more sinister? The trouble is that this is what the report was supposed to look into. Instead, we are left with more questions than answers. Tahirul Qadri, whose own game of opportunist politics on dead bodies has not gone without comment in the media, has welcomed the report and his workers may now be ready for yet another sit-in demanding both Punjab CM Shahbaz Sharif and Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah resign.
There is also the issue of why it took so long for the report to be released. While the Punjab law minister had been saying that sensitive issues meant the report could not be

made public, the time at which it has come out creates even greater problems than was the case before. The government also argued that with the case being heard in court and the government having formed its own commission, there was no need to release the Najafi report, something that made little sense then and makes little sense even now. After all, the commission was set up by the government and it needed to share with people what it found. The latest phase in the Model Town drama now renews another front for the already struggling PML-N, and the Punjab government appears to have done its best to make things difficult for itself.

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