Last Tuesday was a black day for democracy, if the ongoing theatre can be considered democratic at all. The Sharifs finally seem ready to launch a series of brutal assaults on political opponents. By unleashing state terrorism against activists of the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) under the guise of an ‘anti-encroachment’ campaign, their path appears clear and the course seems set. In the current episode of the Sharifs’ democratic justice, police bullets claimed the lives of 11 unarmed people, including two women who were shot in the head. Almost 100 people were injured, 51 of them wounded by bullets. In the second show, the Punjab Chief Minister (CM) appeared himself before the press and apparently in an effort to set acting standards higher, he showed up as the greatest well-wisher of humanity, deeply touched by the unnecessary loss of human life. Had political acting been included as a category, Sharif would certainly have won the prestigious Academy Award.
The Punjab CM declared that a judicial commission would be set up to investigate the tragic incident and if the commission holds him responsible for following the footsteps of Genghis Khan, he would walk out of the CM’s office. In other words, though he is the longest serving Punjab CM, he is still unable to control the police of his hometown. Therefore, for the sake of justice, it is required that respected members of the judicial commission will set to work, consume acres of paper and waste thousands of hours and taxpayers’ money only to prepare a report that will initiate no action and will be buried deep under the pile of reports awaiting action. What is already evident and hard to deny is that the police pulled the trigger. How can the police in Lahore, who seek the CM’ s approval even for a baton charge, pull the trigger without his explicit orders?
And the promise of resigning if found guilty by the commission, is a dark comedy itself. First, in Islami Jamhuria Sharifia, who can dare to prove the Sharifs guilty? True, the nation’s memory is short-lived, but we still remember the way Tariq Mailk was forced to leave the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA). Yes, we have courts once known for taking suo motu notices. As pointed out by an opposition politician, even the honourable courts seem to forget if such a word exists in their legal dictionaries. And please note that this is the same person who promised that he would drag Asif Zardari and other corrupt officials out onto the streets of Lahore. His name was also Shahbaz Sharif, who promised to finish load shedding in six months. One year has passed, load shedding still remains, and he has no intention of changing his name, as promised during the campaigns for the general elections in 2013.
We can believe for a moment that the Model Town operation was not politically motivated and our innocent Punjab CM was not aware of the police’s actions. Will someone explain the nature of the urgency that required our brave Punjab police to arrive at Dr Qadri’s residence at 2:00 am? As barriers had been erected with the court’s permission three years before for security reasons, why was their removal imperative, apparently without any solid reason, just a week before the return of Dr Qadri? And, when PAT activists resisted, the police must have contacted the higher authorities for orders and someone high enough in the political hierarchy must have issued orders to shoot the protestors. There was also Gullu Butt, a pigeon stool and dear Sher-e-Lahore of the CM, damaging vehicles in broad daylight and in front of television cameras. If it was a routine anti-encroachment operation, what was a diehard Sher-e-Lahore of the PML-N doing on the scene? Why did the police not stop him from breaking the windshields and side windows of parked cars? Onlookers bear witness to acts of humiliating, brutal torture on women, children and white bearded elders, saying that they reminded them of the Lal Masjid operation. The good governance of Punjab was being dishonoured live on television screens and Shahbaz Sharif, known for taking inspiration from television channels to set his agenda, wants us to believe that when Model Town was a sort of bandit territory, he was in Lahore but completely unaware of the massacre. Let us say the sun sets in the East!
The Sharifs are veteran politicians and they must have realised the aftereffects of the bloodshed even before giving the go ahead to the police, now acting as an armed wing of the PML-N. After the failure of dialogue and continuous dithering of the civilian leadership, the military operation, Zarb-e-Azab, was finally launched last Sunday against terrorists in North Waziristan. As the circumstantial gravity required, almost all political parties endorsed the action and their joint venture against the government became yesterday’s news. On the other hand, due to the North Waziristan operation, the government and military had a natural opportunity to forget their standoff and come together. In this perspective, by creating unnecessary chaos, the Sharifs have bestowed a golden opportunity to opposition parties to join hands and forge an alliance against the government. There must be some reason behind this generosity. Either the Sharifs, by using the state machinery and taking advantage of the army’s active engagement with terrorists, are about to embark on teaching the opposition parties a lesson, or they wish to divert the armed forces’ attention by creating internal chaos so that they fail in the battlefield. In either case, no matter if Pakistan wins or loses, the Sharif dynasty will prosper and their power will be enhanced. In a few days time, the Sharifs' cat will be out of the bag.
As for now, the police have taken the lives of 11 unarmed and innocent citizens in the provincial capital and no one is willing to take responsibility for issuing the order to fire. More recently, a lady MNA belonging to the MQM was shot twice by unidentified assailants in Lahore. While addressing a press conference over the Model Town incident, Shahbaz Sharif stated that he always handled miscreants with an iron hand. Hopefully, everyone would have learnt a lesson by now and soon Lahore will be completely encroachment- and barrier-free. Since the Sharifs’ residences in Model Town and Raiwind are barricaded with barriers and practically have the status of ‘no go’ areas, I have just one question to ask: dear CM, when are you going to remove the barriers and fortresses around your own residences?
The anthropologist Jack Weatherford once wrote, “Every society produces its own cultural ...