By Raza Ruman
Five years passed by but the families of 14 martyred and 100 injured of Model Town tragedy are still waiting for the justice.
Interestingly, this is the Pakistan Tehreek Isnaf (PTI) government and the Pakistan Awami Tareek (PAT) being its ally is looking up to it and Prime Minister Imran Khan to ensure justice for the victim families.
PML-Q leader and MNA Moonis Elahi has drawn the attention of the government towards this bloodshed at the hands of Punjab police under Shahbaz Sharif on June 17, 2014. “On June 17, 2014, some 14 innocent people were murdered and 100 injured by the ‘Koon League’ and the victim families are still waiting for justice,” Moonis said and questioned when will this ‘koon league’ be made accountable for this crime and the culprits be brought to justice.
Mr Moonis in fact raised a particular point about the hiccups in this case despite the fact the PTI is in power, urging those concerned to not forget this massacre. “آج سے 5 سال پہلے بتاریخ 17 جون، 2014 سانحہ ماڈل ٹاؤ ن رونما ہوا۔ اس الم ناک سانحہ کے 14 معصوم شہید اور سینکڑوں مظلوم زخمی آج بھی ن لیگ المعروف خون لیگ کو سزادئیے جانے کے منتظر #ModelTownMartyrsDay #ModelTownMassacre #PMLN #PAT #JusticeForModelTownMartyrs,” Moonis tweets.
PAT chief Dr Tahirul Qadri should once again lead this campaign to get justice for the victim families like he did in the regime of the Sharifs. The PML-Q is an ally party of the PTI but wants swift justice in this case. There are several notorious characters of this case are roaming freely.
If the PTI government makes a serious effort in the light of the damning report of Lahore High Court (LHC)’s Justice Baqar Najafi, the culprits of this bloodshed can be brought to justice. In the Najfi report its is said: “This single-minded determination of the minister (Rana Sanaullah) to thwart Dr Tahirul Qadri’s political objectives ended up influencing the police’s heavy-handed strategy in dealing with the situation, which resulted in the needless loss of lives on June 14, 2014.”
It said the police operation planned and designed under the chairmanship of the then law minister resulted in gruesome killings could have easily been avoided. “The facts and circumstances of the bloodbath clearly show that the police officers actively participated in the massacre. The apathy and recklessness of all authorities in Punjab in the matter under hand created genuine doubts about their innocence. The actions of police of firing and severely beating the people on the crime scene is irrefutably suggestive that the police did exactly for which they were sent and gathered over there.”
Justice Najafi recalls in the report that during the June 16 meeting, Sanaullah was told that the PAT was seeking to overthrow the government and bring a “revolution”, which Sanaullah made clear that Qadri would not be allowed to achieve. “The commissioner Lahore is then said to have briefed the minister about the barriers placed on roads around the PAT-run Minhajul Quran Academy, which were technically illegal and could be considered and treated as encroachments by the authorities.”
The report said Sanaullah seems to have seized on this ‘excuse’ to disperse the PAT supporters from Minhajul Quran’s vicinity. “It was decided to remove them [the encroachments] with immediate effect. Dr Tauqeer Shah also consented on behalf of the Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif for the removal of the barriers,” it said, hinting at the possible involvement of the provincial chief executive.
The police were sent over to take action. They reached the spot around midnight of June 16, 2014 to execute their orders, but the furious mob and PAT sympathisers commenced pelting stones on police. “The police, as a retaliatory measure, resorted to firing towards the protesters, leaving many persons injured at the site of the incident… some of whom succumbed to their injuries afterward,” the report states.
Justice Najafi observes that the “level of offensive” used by police was not “by any stretch of imagination” commensurate with the resistance offered by the “unarmed PAT workers”.
He also regrets the non-cooperation of the police in helping him dig out the truth. “[…] No police official from top to bottom, whether those who actively participated in the operation or not, […] uttered a single word about the person under whose command the police resorted to firing upon the PAT workers,” he writes.
“Understandably, all police officials were in unison in withholding the information from this tribunal… unfortunately, such are the facts and circumstances under which 14 persons have been shot. The order to open fire must have been given specifically by an officer of the police not below the rank of an Assistant Superintendent or Deputy Superintendent of Police, according to Section 128 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898.” The report said: “The tribunal, therefore, remained conscious of the deliberate silence and concealment of facts by police officials/officers … creating circumstances to think that the police had to abide by the command announced secretly (or openly) to achieve the target at the cost of even killing the unarmed but precious citizens of Pakistan. This led the tribunal to say that this motif of betrayal of law by the police aimed at burying the truth speaks volumes of their high handedness,” it said. More worryingly, Justice Najafi recalls that when the federal government was asked why the Punjab police chief and DCO Lahore were changed in the run-up to the Model Town “bloodbath”, it did not provide any satisfactory response. “Such facts and circumstances obviously lead to an adverse opinion.”
Najfi’s report further said: “The day (Jun 17, 2014) and time (between 10.30am to 12pm) both are very vital as the IG Punjab did not practically take over the command of Punjab Police [by then] and at the same time the honourable new chief justice was about to take oath. Had this tribunal been empowered to investigate, the hidden truth [regarding the government’s behind-the-scenes machinations] might have been exposed.”
“Shahbaz Sharif told the Najfi commission that having seen the standoff at 9.30am on TV, he immediately contacted his secretary, Dr Tauqir Hussain Shah, on phone to order the police to disengage forthwith.” However, Najfi notes, this statement does not corroborate with what Rana Sanaullah or the Punjab home secretary deposed before him.
“The collected reports from all concerned and the affidavits submitted by the police officers in the field do not depict that any order of ‘disengagement’ by the chief minister, Punjab, was ever conveyed/received,” the report states.
“It is shocking to note that everyone has deliberately but unsuccessfully tried to cover each other from possible adverse legal effects. While putting all the facts and the circumstances [together], it has become crystal clear that [the] order for disengagement was not passed at all. Rather, the position taken by CM Punjab appears to be an afterthought defense not taken before the nation in the press conference,” Justice Najafi said. Pak Destiny