The death of PTI supporter Zil-e-Shah was big enough issue for the Punjab government to have the caretaker CM address a press conference in the company of IGP Usman Anwar. Though the press conference included a cogent timeline of events, as well as corroborating CCTV footage, Zil-e-Shah’s unfortunate death remained a political football, something which could conceivably have been avoided if the government had not been so casual about imposing Section 144 CrPC in Lahore. The PTI is trying to portray the death of Zil-e-Shah as a death in police custody deliberately committed. This seems problematic, for it is not clear why the police would pick on him, a special person, who was hardly in any sort of PTI inner circle. The police claim he escaped after being arrested, and was hit by a vehicle, whose driver dropped his corpse off at the Services Hospital. The driver of the vehicle, the police claim, has been apprehended, and is said to have confessed the accidental killing. The police claim has been seized upon by the PML(N) as well as the caretaker Punjab government, to portray the PTI as a party willing to lie for political advantage.
The episode, which is by no means yet over, has revealed two related and uncomfortable truths First, the caretaker government is not as neutral or evenhanded as it should be. Instead of being the main driver of a fair poll, it may well prove to be an obstacle. Second, it shows up the incompatibility of normal election activity with impositions of Section 144. Even on Sunday, the PTI wanted to take out a rally from party chief Imran Khan’s Zaman Park residence, only to have Section 144 imposed again, leading to the rally being cancelled. The whispers that the Punjab elections, which have been slated for April 30 by the ECP, will not be held are growing louder, and the ECP is to take up the Section 144 issuing a meeting on Monday(today) after being moved by the PTI.
Whatever the result of the meeting, Zil-e-Shah’s death remains a conundrum. Only an inquiry by neutral observers will resolve the issue. It is necessary that this is done, otherwise the political parties will try to exploit the death of this innocent. Only if the facts are established by an impartial panel will it be possible to end the charges and countercharges.