Co authored by Hassaan Ahmad and Shahab Jafry
With due apologies…
Try as the Punjab government might, they just can’t seem to shake the Model Town case away. First they tried to use muscle to subdue PAT workers. When that turned ugly they tried to use more muscle to fudge medical records and the FIR. Then, for some mysterious reason, judges refused to try the case. But, still, the ghosts of the fallen from Model Town continue to haunt the Punjab government. Now, the firm hand of the law is demanding that Justice Najafi’s report be made public. Also, despite dragging its feet for more than three years, it seems decision time is not too far away now.
DNA talked exclusively to Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) secretary general, Khurram Nawaz Gandapur, regarding the case.
Q: How long do you expect the court to decide on the case regarding the Model Town massacre, especially Justice Mazahir Ali Naqvi’s verdict on making Justice Baqir Najafi’s report public?
KNG: This is a very straight forward case. There are no complexities in it that can take time. It is only the Punjab government’s delaying tactics that are making it linger. I, however, do not feel that they can stretch it much longer. Now, I’m pretty certain that the final verdict will come within a week.
The main point is that the government has no solid ground to contest this case. Need I remind everybody that they killed 14 people in broad daylight? And it’s not as if there is insufficient evidence. TV recordings, as well as CCTV footage, provide all the details of all the victims.
All political parties stand with us on this matter. Even within PML-N, only four or five people defend the government’s position. The rest do not defend their actions. We are even in contact with a number of police officials. They say they are not coming forward for the moment because they fear for their lives. They say if they are provided security, or the government changes, they are willing to come forward.
In addition to the video evidence, a number of journalists were also there, who corroborated our stance. They have also said, time and again, that Punjab police started the firing.
Having said that, let me ask you a straight forward question. If the police is not guilty, and nobody else was there, did somebody descend from the sky and kill those 14 people and injure another 100? Where did the bullets rain down from?
Q: No doubt you remember that the first full bench, comprising then acting CJ Yawar Ali and Justices Abdus Sami and Anwaar ul Haq, recused itself from hearing the case (for personal reasons). Why was no reason ever cited?
KNG: This is a Punjab-specific precedent; that judges recuse themselves without citing reasons. And this is not a good precedent. In all other provinces judges have to give reasons – conflict of interest, etc – in writing before recusing themselves.
I am not critiquing the judiciary, but, with due apology, this is not justice. Not with us and, much more importantly, not with the families of those who died and were injured. In my opinion, by withdrawing from this case, those judges stood on the side of the oppressors.
Q: What, possibly, about the report could fan sectarian tensions, as the Punjab government has apparently implied? Also, in case it does, are you willing to let sensitive parts be kept from the public as long as they disclose who ordered the firing and who carried out those orders?
KNG: This sectarian angle, which you refer to, is just a figment of Rana Sanaullah’s imagination. I feel he took this position because the holy month of Moharram was just around the corner at that time. And he just wanted to add to people’s sense of fear, to keep the demand for making the report public from gaining more momentum in the public. Police force is not Shi’a or Sunni per say. They include all denominations – Shi’a, Sunni, Wahabi, Barelvi, etc. Let me tell you one more thing. One of our martyred brothers was a Christian.
Rana Sanaullah is making such statements because he has the most to lose if the facts come out. According to my information, one day before the Model Town massacre (June 16), Rana Sanaullah chaired a high level security meeting that included secretary to chief minister, Tauqir Shah, to prepare for Dr Tahirul Qadri’s arrival the next day. They discussed the whole security plan. The order to fire also came from Sanaullah and Shah. Police kept firing for 30 minutes, shooting more than 1,000 bullets.
After the incident, the government transferred Shah out of the country out of fear that he might spill the beans. He is still away, not given any position inside Pakistan.
As for sensitive parts of the report, we asked the judge to see the report personally, and if sectarian claims, etc, are justified, then we don’t mind if those parts are kept from public view. But we will require the names of those who ordered the shooting of the 14 killed and hundreds wounded, and those who carried out the orders.
Q: Your actions, particularly your dharnas, are dubbed dangerous for democracy by whichever government is in place at the time. If you contest the next general election, will they consider the participation a threat to democracy also?
KNG: Where did this notion come from that PML-N or PPP are the only custodians of democracy? A lot of people have sacrificed for democracy. These people have just benefitted from democracy.
My brother was one of the seven judges that did not take oath under Musharraf’s PCO. My other brother, ambassador on a foreign posting at the time of the ’99 coup, resigned from his posting but did not serve under a military dictator.
I do not like to talk about myself, but I, too, resigned from the army when Gen Zia took over the country. My career was going well, but I took a principled stand. I sacrificed my career for my principles. Politicians from PML-N and PPP have no right to associate democracy with themselves only.
And since you mention the election, we are definitely going to contest. Any comment on the possibility of alliances with other parties would be premature at the moment.
Q: What if, in the worst case scenario, government institutions do not provide you with justice? Please spell out your strategy in that case.
KNG: I am one hundred percent sure that this case is about to be decided. Unfortunately the government cannot see the writing on the wall.
I will tell you another thing. Pakistan is at a critical political crossroads. The direction the country takes as a whole depends on whether or not the legal machinery can punish Nawaz and Shahbaz Sharif for their crimes. If they are apprehended and sent to prison, the country will take a different direction. But if they wriggle out of corruption and murder cases, there will be no progress.