Whether crime or true crime, the stories of crime have always been entertaining. Some of my most favorite TV shows since childhood include Agatha Christie and Columbo. In both the shows, a murder gets committed, which then gets investigated by the legendary detectives: Columbo and Hercule Poirot. There are two slight and interesting differences between the two iconic crime shows though. In Agatha Christie’s stories, the viewers do not know until almost the end of the story who the murderer is. The viewers come to understand the crime committed as the detective Poirot pieces together the clues and connections to form a picture. A signature smile always emerged on Poirot’s face when he would finally understand the puzzle. The viewers would know that in his mind, the crime was solved. In Columbo, however, the viewers always knew the criminal in the beginning of the story but would enjoy watching the shrewd detective put pieces together.
I personally liked Agatha Christie more than Columbo but the assassination of Arshad Sharif is more like Columbo because in this story the people of Pakistan already know the murderers. No spoiler alert needed for this story because the people of Pakistan also know that nobody would get to the bottom of it anyway. They would watch the pieces not put together deliberately. It is rather a misnomer to label the investigation of the killing of Arshad Sharif as fact-finding. The facts are already found. Whatever this investigation is has got more to do with reaching an artificial conclusion, which would convince nobody. Yet, it would serve to provide some semblance of face-saving.
The investigation has nothing to do with finding the truth. The people of Pakistan would watch energy and resources devoted in manufacturing an artificial and imagined truth, which would be drilled into their heads to convince them of the new nonsense that would be invented at the end of this fruitless endeavour. Sure, it would sanitise the image of some powerful men, most likely the real killers. Pakistanis have a great ability to create memes in the online world. But our greater trait seems to be inventing nonsense.
I am reminded of an old funny joke we used to repeat in school. Once upon a time three men, a British, an American, and a Pakistani, were talking to each other. The Brit says that his country’s police are so effective that they solve crimes within an hour after it is committed. The American says that that wasn’t good enough because in his country, the police always solved the crime within half an hour. They then turn to the Pakistani who is quietly shaking his head with a condescending and dismissive demeanor. He finally opens his mouth and says, “In our country, the police already know the criminals and the crime before it is even committed.” Both the western men believed that the Pakistani next to them had gone too far in his urge to brag. However, the people of Pakistan know that their fellow citizen was merely stating the truth.
To find the murderers of Arshad Sharif, what is needed is not an investigation or some fact-finding mission. What is rather needed is the courage and fearlessness to establish this almost public knowledge. Fact-establishing, rather than fact-finding, is the need of the day. And until we are brave enough to tell ourselves the truth, we can never have the courage to utter it out loud. Lies perhaps are the biggest of all crimes and sins. In Pashto, we say, ‘rishtya chy raa rasi, no darogho ba kali rwan kare vi’ meaning that before the truth is established, the lies would have done its job of destroying the entire civilisations. That is how dangerous lies could be. Arshad Sharif’s murder is not a Whodunit story. It is rather who-can-dare-tell the truth one, if you will.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 8th, 2022.
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