Minutes before making the Ali Baqir Najafi commission report public on court orders, Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah tried to paint its findings as controversial by terming the document incomplete, inconclusive and defective.
He said during a press conference before giving out the report to the media on Tuesday that it was based on secondary evidence not admissible in a court. He said vital agency reports on which the commission’s findings were based were missing from the document. An alleged attempt to give the Model Town incident a sectarian colour was also among the main reasons behind keeping the report secret, he said. Sanaullah was removed from the law ministry for a few months after the incident in 2014.
He claimed that no one had been held guilty for the incident and no responsibility had been fixed on Punjab government or police by the commission.
He expressed surprise over remarks included in the report’s conclusion that “keeping in view the above facts and circumstances the reader of this report can easily fix the responsibility of unfortunate Minhajul Quran incident”. The minister said every individual drawing his conclusion could have created an atmosphere of animosity and this was one of the reasons behind the government’s earlier decision of not making the report public.
He said that to ascertain the facts and fix responsibility on the basis of the evidence gathered by the Najafi commission, the government deputed the Lahore High Court’s retired chief justice Khalilur Rehman Khan. After thoroughly reviewing the case, the former judge suggested to the provincial government not to accept the report and said making certain pages of it public would damage sectarian harmony and public peace.
He said the report revealed that a mob had gathered outside the Minhajul Quran headquarters but did not ascertain who provoked the people to fight the police.
He said that the actual reason behind the incident was that Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) chief Maulana Tahirul Qadri wanted dead bodies for the success of his long march. He said the propaganda during the past three years that revelation of the report would incriminate the government was part of political victimisation.
He said that appointment of the Najafi commission was challenged in courts, causing legal complications in making its report public, so the government left the decision to the larger bench.
Regarding the chief minister’s claim in his affidavit that he ordered the police through his secretary to disengage, the commission should have summoned him for personal hearing rather than observing that either the CM did not issue the orders or they were not conveyed completely, he said.
He said it had been alleged that he had ordered removal of the barriers in Model Town during a high-level meeting. The meeting was attended by 16 other people and such orders were given routinely in accordance with the law, he said. Sanaullah said he didn’t order PAT workers to engage with police with such brute force.
He said the report was to a large extent based on source reports and secondary evidence which were not admissible in courts. He said the agency source report on which the findings had been based was missing from the final document.
The minister said police did not function on sectarian grounds but such unsubstantiated claims were incorporated in the report.
He also said that the report had no legal value and was intended for the information of the government. He said that PAT had earlier tried to make the report a part of the Model Town case but the court had refused to do so. He alleged the PAT was trying to prolong the case for gaining public sympathy.
Meanwhile, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) welcomed the release of the report. Central Punjab PTI President Abdul Aleem Khan said, “In the light of the report, soon the culprits and abetters will be in jail… The courts should be praised for this.”
Another PTI leader, Dr Yasmin Rashid, demanded immediate resignation of Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Sanaullah to face legal action. She said justice for the victims of Model Town was their families’ fundamental right. “Now the accused named in the report will be punished for their crimes.”