Trying to shift the debate

The confessional videos being produced are unconvincing

Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif made all the right noises while declaring that all the arsonists who were guilty of the attack on the Corps Commander’s residence in Lahore must be arrested in 72 hours, but the videos that have been released of arsonists supposedly confessing their crimes, and saying that they were instructed by PTI leaders does not seem to be the fulfilment of the PM’s promise that they were supposed to be. They might be satisfying to some, as they produced indications that the PTI was guilty of rioting, and thus increased the volume within the ruling coalition of those calling for a ban on the PTI because it was a violent party. However, they are not evidence which will be accepted in any court of law, and are no substitute for the thorough investigation that needs to be conducted.

Apart from courts of law, the court of public opinion is unlikely to be convinced, because the authorities are clearly approaching the problem with traditional outdated methods. The shouts of ‘Long live the Pak Army’ at the end of the videos do not seem spontaneous, but the brainwave of someone acting as a producer. The public is uneasily aware that sufficient third-degree torture will make a suspect confess almost anything and implicate whomsoever the investigator wants. Therefore, the publicly broadcast confessions are not going to convince anyone. Then there are several audio leaks of those allegedly involved in the attack. These do not constitute evidence unless difficult criteria are met, and at best, indicate the lines on which investigations must be conducted. Another issue arising at this stage, when recorded footages are being collected in the affected areas, is whether someone who found himself as part of an attacking mob, must be as severely punished as the leader. The COAS might well have said that the Army will never forget the attacks, but there is still a thorough investigation lacking.

The basic problem is that the investigation being conducted is not so much meant as to uncover the truth, as to reach a predetermined conclusion. The government must realise that the conclusion it wants to reach, that the PTI was involved, is not easily accepted by people already asking questions about the role of the military in recent years. It will take more than a few contrived confessional videos to convince people.

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The Editorial Department of Pakistan Today can be contacted at: [email protected].

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