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Friday, February 16, 2024

Model Town Massacre: Will the victims ever get justice?

Supreme Court of Pakistan has directed the LHC to conclude the Model Town Massacre case within three months. The important question is; will the innocent victims ever get justice?

The Supreme Court withheld interim order of the Lahore High Court (LHC) which had suspended the new Joint Investigation Team (JIT) to probe the Model Town carnage. A bench of the apex court headed by Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed rejected the Government of Punjab’s appeal against interim order of the high court.

The chief justice also urged LHC to decide petitions in the case soon to bring the Model Town case to its logical end. The court directed the high court to decide the matter within three months. “The Supreme Court’s decision should be provided to the high court for constitution of a bench for hearing of the case”, the court headed.

The new joint investigation team (JIT) was constituted on January 3, 2019 for a fresh probe into the 2014 Model Town carnage, following a notification issued by the Punjab chief secretary. The LHC had ordered the new JIT to stop the probe and told the government to cancel the notification of its formation after the new JIT was challenged in the high court.

The verdict was challenged by the Punjab advocate general on the approval of Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar.
Earlier in April, the LHC had ordered the new JIT to halt the probe and annulled the notification of its constitution regarding the Model Town incident. In March the LHC dissolved the JIT probing the case.

Read more: Model Town Case: Inevitable need to reform system 

The Punjab government has now argued the JIT was constituted on the directions of the SC and that the LHC cannot stop it from working.

On December 5, 2018, the Supreme Court had ordered the Punjab government to form a new joint investigation team (JIT) in the Model Town case. A five-member bench headed by then Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Justice Mian Saqib Nisar was hearing a petition by the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) over the formation of a new JIT in the Model Town case. Interestingly, then-chief Justice Asif Saeed, remarked that after the indictment of former Punjab IGP Mushtaq Sukera in the case, all statements had to be recorded again.

Model Town Tragedy: Background

A deadly clash took place on 17 June 2014 where several members of Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) got killed by the indiscriminate use of force by the Punjab police. The Model Town tragedy made headlines across the world and the PML-N government was criticized and exposed for following a vested political agenda.

Later on, a commission was made under the supervision of a LHC serving judge. The commission submitted its report but the PML-N led government did not publish it. Ultimately, the Punjab government, at the behest of the LHC, had made the report of the Model Town incident public on December 5, 2017.

Justice Najafi reports that then Punjab Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Rana Sanaullah seems to have already decided on June 16, 2014 that Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) Chairman Dr. Tahir ul Qadri would not be allowed any opportunity to hold a long march from Rawalpindi to Lahore, as the latter planned to do on June 23, 2014.

Read more: Model Town Tragedy: Punjab Government challenges LHC decision dissolving the JIT

This single-minded determination of the minister to thwart Dr. Qadri’s political objectives ended up influencing the police’s heavy-handed strategy in dealing with the situation, which resulted in the needless loss of lives the very next day, Justice Najafi argues in the report.

Justice Najafi outlines four very important points in his findings:

  • “The operation planned and designed under the chairmanship of the then law minister resulted in gruesome killings could have easily been avoided.”
  • “The facts and circumstances of the bloodbath clearly show that the police officers actively participated in the massacre.”
  • “The apathy and recklessness of all authorities in Punjab in the matter under hand created genuine doubts about their innocence.”
  • “The actions of police of firing and severely beating the people on the crime scene is irrefutably suggestive that the police did exactly for which they were sent and gathered over there.”

Though Justice Najafi himself does not affix responsibility for the tragedy, he invites readers to review the facts and circumstances and “easily fix the responsibility of the unfortunate Minhajul Quran incident” themselves.

The LHC has been directed to conclude the case within three months. It is to be seen whether the victims of model town tragedy shall ever get justice or not.