If ever there was an open-and-shut case where the identities of the perpetrators are known, it is the killing of Sarfaraz Shah. The Rangers’ personnel who shot him and the colleagues who were egging him on were caught on video. That the Supreme Court has now taken suo motu notice of the case is a positive development. This shows that the judiciary has the courage to take on even the dreaded paramilitary force. The same unfortunately can’t be said for the Sindh government which, while expressing its condolences to the family, still seems intent on defending the Rangers. So long as they do not have support from all organs of the government, it is unlikely that Shah’s family will get the justice they deserve.
Already, the brave cameraman who took the video that exposed the Rangers’ brutality has been receiving death threats. These, too, need to be investigated and the parties responsible hauled up before the courts. Shah’s family has fled Karachi and is in Islamabad seeking justice. Their efforts must not go in vain and their lives should not be threatened. As we saw in the murder of journalist Saleem Shahzad, when those with power seek to silence someone, they usually succeed. Shahzad’s family has been unable to register a case against his kidnapping and murder and they, too, feel under threat. This depressing exercise should not repeat itself with Shah’s family.
The director general of the Rangers, Ajaz Chaudhry, vowed that those involved in the murder of Shah would be severely punished. However, he immediately undercut his words by ordering an internal enquiry that will be conducted by a brigadier and two lieutenant colonels. This is a recipe for a whitewash. Expecting army men to hold a transparent enquiry when the accused are paramilitary officials is absurd. Above all, the scope of the enquiry should go beyond just the killing of Sarfaraz Shah. The culture of impunity that governs Rangers’ conduct needs to be examined and remedied.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 13th, 2011.