DAWN Editorials 8th November 2022

Ishrat Jamal

Delayed FIR

THE registration of an FIR regarding the attempted assassination of former prime minister Imran Khan should not have been such a complicated matter. There should have been no need for the chief justice to intervene and issue an ultimatum to the IG Punjab. Yet, that is exactly where things stood till late Monday night, when, according to reports, the complaint was expected to be registered under pressure of the Supreme Court’s deadline.

Mr Khan’s insistence on the nomination of a senior intelligence official had become a major stumbling block. The PTI chief had complained that Punjab Police were refusing to register his complaint, even though the inspector general later told the chief justice on Monday that it was, in fact, the PTI’s allies in the provincial government that had been creating hurdles. Chief Minister Pervaiz Elahi’s relationship with Mr Khan must have undergone some major turbulence as he tried to convince the latter to reconsider.

Nothing in the law prohibits armed forces officials from being nominated in an FIR, yet someone did not want to see it happen. The move was resisted even though an investigation may well have exonerated the officer completely and proven Mr Khan wrong.

Due to the inordinate delay, the deadlock raised questions regarding institutional exceptionalism: what entitled an armed forces officer to be treated differently when there were no objections to the names of the prime minister and interior minister in the same complaint?

Meanwhile, the delay also gave the PTI another opportunity to push the narrative that it was being victimised. It accused powerful quarters of using their influence to deny justice to a former prime minister.

Things now seem to be moving forward, but the path ahead is hardly clear. While Mr Khan and the prime minister finally agree on how the attack can be investigated, the former seems to be complicating matters by insisting that everyone he has accused resign. If Mr Khan agrees to a Supreme Court commission probing the issue, perhaps he should consider letting the commission make that decision.

It is easy to make accusations, and Mr Khan has provided little evidence to justify his demands. Instead, it appears he is capitalising on the opportunity to settle political scores with the people he sees blocking his return to power, while jeopardising the investigation by making it contingent on demands that seem very unlikely to be fulfilled.

The people of Pakistan are entitled to the facts of this case. The questions they have regarding the perpetrator(s) and motives behind the brazen attack cannot remain unresolved.

The incident has already shaken the relationship between the citizens and the state: its investigation should not be treated as a personal prerogative by the PTI chief. There should be no further delay in launching an investigation, conducting it thoroughly and delivering its results transparently to the people of Pakistan.

Published in Dawn, November 8th, 2022

Battling bandits

WHILE urban Sindh, particularly Karachi, suffers from an epidemic of street crime, it is apparent that lawbreakers have also run amok in other parts of the province. Upper Sindh — specifically the katcha or riverine areas — suffers from an atmosphere of lawlessness, as gangs of dacoits take advantage of the difficult terrain along the Indus, as well as the government’s inefficiency, to carve out fiefdoms beyond the state’s reach. The deadly attack on police personnel early on Sunday in Ghotki district illustrates just how powerful the heavily armed bandits are. As per reports, a small brigade of around 150 bandits attacked a police camp which had been set up to help locate hostages who had been kidnapped by the criminals. By the time the guns had fallen silent, five policemen, including a DSP and two SHOs, had lost their lives. The bandits had targeted the law enforcers with heavy weapons, including rockets. The dacoits had also taken away the bodies of the fallen policemen, and had it not been for the intervention of ‘influentials’, the law enforcers’ mortal remains may not have been recovered.

The dacoit problem in Sindh is not new; from the 1980s to the 1990s the bandits had unleashed a reign of terror in the province, and the military had to be deployed in 1992 to restore a semblance of order. Nor is this a problem limited to Sindh, for the notorious Chotu gang has unleashed its share of havoc in southern Punjab’s riverine area. In fact, the prime minister this summer had ordered the launch of a crackdown to go after south Punjab’s criminal gangs. It must be asked how the bandits have access to heavy weaponry; at times, the brigands appear better equipped than the law enforcers. A sustained and coordinated policy involving all three provincial police forces — Sindh, Punjab, Balochistan — needs to be hammered out, as the bandits can be found in areas where the three provincial borders meet. It will make little sense for security forces of one province to clear out the dacoits from their area, only for the bandits to find refuge across provincial lines. Moreover, there is also the question of collusion, as observers have noted that black sheep within the Sindh police are in cahoots with the dacoits, allowing them to escape justice. The Ghotki raid should be a wake-up call, and citizens of the riverine areas need to be protected from these violent elements.

Published in Dawn, November 8th, 2022

Turning the tide?

A YEAR on, a similar outcome — only this can get even better. Pakistan are once again in the semi-finals of the Twenty20 World Cup but their run in the ongoing edition in Australia hasn’t been as convincing as the one in the UAE where they coasted through with a perfect record in the Super 12. A last-four loss to eventual champions Australia ended the barnstorming run that had captivated their fans. This time, though, it’s been edge-of-the-seat stuff. Fans have had to endure a nervous wait — scenarios and permutations changing after every game. Last-ball defeats to India and then Zimbabwe in their first two games had seen Pakistan lose control of their destiny. With their fate hanging in the balance, Babar Azam’s men needed a miracle: winning their last three games and hoping for other results going their way. Wins against the Netherlands and South Africa kept Pakistan in the chase till the final round of Group 2 matches on Sunday, where they got a huge helping hand from the Dutch. The unfancied Europeans pulled off a stunning upset over South Africa to put India through to the semis and render Pakistan’s game against Bangladesh a straight shootout for the other last-four spot from the group. Given renewed hope, Pakistan obliged.

In an echo of the country’s most famous cricketing triumph — at the 1992 ODI World Cup, also held in Australia — Babar’s men have turned a corner when hopes were dwindling. Like then, it is New Zealand who stand between Pakistan and the final, where England possibly await. Things seem to be falling into place for Pakistan; the players seem to be peaking at the perfect time. The young Mohammad Haris has given Pakistan a shot in the arm with his fearless batting. Pace spearhead Shaheen Shah Afridi is back to his brilliant best. The elements have contrived to put Pakistan in the semi-finals. How far they go from here is now up to them.

Published in Dawn, November 8th, 2022