At last, it seemed, after 112 years, Lahore got its equivalent of the Sidney Street siege in London. If the London police had raided the house in Sidney Street in the hope of arresting the perpetrators of the earlier Hounds ditch jewel robbery, who had killed three cops, the Lahore police was assisting an Islamabad police team execute a warrant by arresting PTI chief Imran Khan and hauling him off to Islamabad (interestingly, the charge against him involved a jeweled watch). If the London police, coming under fire, called in the Army, the Lahore police took along Rangers (and water cannon). The London police couldn’t use teargas, which had not yet been invented; the Lahore police did, in amazing quantities.
However, what was missing in Lahore was the presence of the federal Interior Minister, or even the IGP. Back in 1911, the Home Secretary was there in person, none other than Winston Churchill himself, still a young man, just routinely ugly, and not the grumpy baby he grew to resemble when he finally became PM. Hmm. An ex-PM against the Lahore police, a future PM with the London Police.
The siege was remarkable for being the first time the Army was called in to aid the police in the UK. And because the Home Secretary was there. Churchill was bound to have interfered, and probably for the worse.
There’s a big difference in the targets, which might tell us much about the two countries, and thus the particular problems that their police forces face. In both cases, the forces faced unprecedented challenges. In Sidney Street, the London flatties did not have to deal merely with jewel robbers, rare enough as that was, but Latvian anarchists, who financed their movement by robbery. The Lahori t-hulas and Islamabad supatas had to deal with a party leader.
The casualties were also different. The London police besieged Sidney Street because they had already lost three dead in the original robbery. On the other hand, whatever went on at the Toshakhana, might have been barefaced and blatant, but was bloodless.
Of course, the whole episode had Imran once again exercising his creativity, doing the unthinkable, of the same order of genius as he showed when he put Germany and Japan next to each other.
Summoned by a court, he refused to go. I don’t think anyone ever thought such a thing was possible. He has shown that it is. I know the police are corrupt. (And might one add, inefficient?) I know the cases against him are political victimization. But when a court issues a warrant, one goes.
However, I don’t Imran compromised on the sacred principle of the rule of law. I mean, he could have taken the easy way out, and spoken to the Islamabad police, who would have gone back to Islamabad without taking him, and telling the court they couldn’t find him, if he had paid an appropriate amount. But then, Imran is said to be very stingy, and hates parting with cash.
No wonder they raided his house on Saturday, while he was in Islamabad. Talk abouT bolting the stable-door after the horse has bolted.
Saturday was a bad day. Apart from the raid, Shaheen Shah led the Lahore Qalandhars to a back-to-back PSL win. Does that count as the same as a World Cup win by those who want him on the same page?
Another reason that strikes one for his not going is that he hasn’t had the proper clothes delivered from his tailor, which consists of a qameez almost touching his ankles, yellow with large blue polka dots, and a black dhoti. With a taweez sown into a leather pouch hanging from his neck, he would be ready for any criminal court. Oh yes, not forgetting the surma he has to apply to his eyes.
But why is Imran afraid where other politicians have not been? It’s not as if you can’t get prohibited substances in jail, if that’s a problem. I’m sure organic food can be arranged. Is it the fear of the shadowy agencies which never arrest or take custody on paper, but with whom the Islamabad police is inured to cooperate? The same people who turned up for Shehbaz Gill and then Azam Swati?
I wouldn’t be surprised if Riad Salameh is in Lebanon taking notes. He’s Lebanon’s sitting central bank governor (since 1994), and he and his brother are going to be charged with money laundering. No worries, we can look Lebanon in the eye. I mean, have they got a PM who stole watches?