It has taken three years for the Model Town inquiry report to emerge into the public domain. The report was completed within a year, but has been withheld by the Punjab government. The incident in 2014 left 14 dead and many injured at the hands of the Punjab police, all members of the Pakistan Awami Tehreek. It does not make for comfortable reading and none of those involved whether in the police force or the government emerges honourably.
The 132-page document is principally concerned with communication up and down the chains of command, who gave the orders, who received them and who acted on them with what consequences. A crucial point is whether the chief minister of Punjab gave the orders to disengage and if so why those were not communicated to those on the ground. We are told that no legal opinion was sought from the Punjab Advocate General before the operation was launched (as to its legality); and that across the spectrum of command the police withheld evidence to the tribunal conducting the inquiry and did all they could to impede it, impugning the judiciary along the way. They appeared to be building the ‘just following orders’ defence so beloved of those attempting to cover themselves having committed a crime. In a particularly damning line the report says, “…such a level of offensive by police by any stretch of imagination did not commensurate with the level of resistance by unarmed PAT workers.”
Whatever the political deficits embedded in the report it is the police that emerge as the real villains of the piece. Ill-disciplined, poorly led and prone, as in the past, to acting in a manner that both exceeds their mandate and borders on the barbaric. Small wonder that the Punjab government did all it could to repress the report, and we again have to thank the judiciary for prising it from the clutches of an unwilling government. Whether any of those named and shamed will ever be held accountable is at best doubtful, and justice for the families of the dead is as far away today as it ever was.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 7th, 2017.