Is the Punjab government protecting Ludhianvi?
Either the Punjab govt has gone rogue, or more worryingly, someone at the top sympathises with Ludhianvi and co.
After decades of abuse over corruption, politicisation, complicity with criminals, outright disregard for their own duties, and their inexplicable fear of unarmed lynch mobs, the Punjab police showed that there is at least one group whom they don’t fear- their own- when they pointed their guns at the Islamabad police to protect a known hatemonger from arrest.
Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (read Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan) leader Muhammad Ahmed Ludhianvi, along with fellow extremist and Jamaatud Dawa (read Lashkar-e Taiba) chief Hafiz Saeed were wanted by the city police, for breaking a ban on their entry into the city, when both appeared at Parade Ground (D Chowk) to make their case for expediting the onset of Armageddon (or speaking at the Defence of Pakistan rally, whichever you believe).
Ignoring the fact that the defence of Pakistan has been (self)-entrusted to a bunch of guys best associated with murdering innocent Pakistanis and foreigners, even though the legally-mandated security forces have shown they can do the same in Balochistan K-P, and elsewhere, these two men were charged under the Anti Terrorism Act for being the leaders of their respective banned-charities-fronting-for-terrorist-groups (let’s call them charitable terrorists for short). In short, whatever they said or did, just admitting to being who they are would constitute a crime.
So, given that the Punjab police was around the dastardly duo at all times, this entire episode would never have happened if they just did their jobs. But then they wouldn’t be the Punjab police.
Going over the chain of events, after Saeed finished ranting at the rally, the two leaders were tipped-off, by whom no one knows, that the Islamabad police were about to swoop in to arrest them. While the cops foiled their getaway, the two leaders demanded copies of the arrest warrant, which the cops did not have on hand. After the two maulanas ‘forced’ the cops to let them go, they drove around the city, passing through various check posts and demanding copies of the warrant whenever they were stopped. Meanwhile, no cop seemed to realise that they were allowed to hold the suspect till the warrant was produced. Maybe they were being nice to the out-of-town guests?
Eventually, after police blocked off Ninth Avenue to corner Ludhianvi, his Punjab police guards aimed their guns at Islamabad’s policemen. Pardon me for thinking each of those Punjab policemen should be fired, arrested and made to do the ‘murgha’ at a prominent location.
Later, after the roadblock was cleared by Ludhianvi’s supporters, a car chase ensued, only to end with the ASWJ chief demanding the warrant again. It eventually took “negotiations” with the sons of two right-wing demagogues to finally bring him in, laughing, and with his still armed cadre in tow.
Later, when ASWJ supporters marched on the police station, Rehman Malik was called in (because Batman was busy) to ‘avoid any untoward incident’. He promptly arranged for a makeshift court in the station, which granted Ludhianvi bail. A man accused of inciting sectarianism/terrorism, defying police instructions, allowing his goons (cops or not) to point guns at on duty policemen, leading cops on a wild goose chase and possibly threatening to attack a police station, got off without spending even a few minutes in lockup.
Exactly zero cops have been punished for their role in pointing guns at their fellow officers and protecting the hatemongers. Exactly zero IGPs have offered to resign for the behaviour of their men. Exactly zero Punjabi political figures have admitted to being responsible for giving Ludhianvi refuge in Punjab House. Exactly zero Rehman Maliks and Rana Sanaullahs have come forward to make ridiculous observations about how and why this happened.
And exactly zero days in prison is what Mr Ludhianvi spent after finally being held for the lesser crime of violating Section 144 (unlawful assembly), or as another newspaper reported, Section 188 (disobeying an official order from a public servant) on the complaint of a cop. The latter carries a penalty of (gasp!) a month in jail and a Rs600 fine.
Given the way that events unfurled, either the Punjab government has gone rogue, or more worryingly, someone at the top sympathises with Ludhianvi and co.
Shahbaz Sharif routinely fired off on Messrs Zardari and Gillani for their alleged flouting of the law, specifically the SC’s orders on various issues. Now short of going on TV and calling himself out for being just as duplicitous as he would claim the top leadership of the federal government is, he has a very easy chance to prove he was not behind the protection afforded to the leader of a terrorist group. All he has to do is order an inquiry, sack a few cops, arrest a few fundos, and then gloat at how he managed to do what the PPP-run federal govt couldn’t. It might even give his party a boost as they battle Imran Khan’s increasing popularity in Punjab.
Unfortunately, like many of our ‘brave, visionary leaders’, when the going gets tough, the self-proclaimed tough stick their heads in the sand.
Read more by Vaqas here, opr follow him on Twitter @vasghar.