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Model Town massacre case: Will justice be done?

"All the accused and co-accused of the Model Town incident are, either, elevated to higher positions, both in political and administrative sectors, or acquitted"

Perhaps it is the first test case for the criminal justice system of Pakistan that a crime committed in front of cameras some seven years ago that claimed 14 lives, including that of two women, and injured around 100 people, could not even begin to be investigated.

Surprisingly, all the accused and co-accused of the incident are, either, elevated to higher positions, both in political and administrative sectors, or acquitted. The affected party accused that it was a state-backed crime while the other functionaries allege that it was a type of a ‘self-generated’ operation. The people of Pakistan want to see who is the real accused and why the justice system can’t reach the criminals when evidence has been captured through the eyes of cameras in the daylight.

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Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) has decided to challenge the acquittal of an accused, the then deputy commissioner Lahore, Captain (R) Mohammad Usman Yunus, from the Model Town massacre case, Minute Mirror has learnt. Usman is commissioner of Lahore Division now. An appeal to challenge the order of the lower court is in process and it will soon be filed in the Lahore High Court.

It has also been learnt that the parties of the case were not informed about this judgment when this decision surfaced on April 8, 2022. Surprisingly, the PAT was given the next date of hearing of May 8. But the lawyers learnt that one of the accused, Usman Younus, has been given clearance to walk free.

When this newspaper contacted PAT Secretary General Khurram Nawaz Gandapur, it was learnt that he was observing aitikaf. However, information secretary Noorul Haq Siddiqui was of the view that the PAT would continue to struggle for justice. He said that the party had spent 80 crores to get justice from the courts. Approximately, the same amount has been spent on the families of the victims, he added. He said the state badly failed to protect them and that justice delayed was justice denied.

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The victims of the Model Town incident have long waited for justice but they did not get it. Siddiqui said that since all the accused were either political figures or mighty bureaucrats, the case had become a test case for the system, state and society. Right from the registration of the FIR to this day, PAT has had to protest and run from pillar to post to pressurize the criminal justice system to work, he added.

“We have demanded an impartial investigation into the incident. Though on our protest, a joint investigation team (JIT) was constituted but Lahore High Court had issued a stay order to furnish its findings on the application of an accused, Constable Khurram Rafiq,” Siddiqui said, adding that “we approached the Supreme Court which directed the Lahore High Court to decide the matter in three months, but one and a half years later, there is no justice”.

The Model Town massacre victims’ families have been waiting for justice from the courts for years. They have approached the anti-terrorism court, the high court and the Supreme Court too but to no avail. Responding to a question on the change of regime in the country, he said that all the main accused of the Model Town massacre are in power now. The then chief minister of Punjab, Shehbaz Sharif, has become prime minister of Pakistan, Punjab opposition leader Hamza Shehbaz is CM-elect of Punjab, the then home minister of Punjab Rana Sanaullah has become interior minister of Pakistan, ex-railways minister Khwaja Saad Rafiq, ex-defence minister Khwaja Asif, the then home secretary Punjab Azam Salman Khan is Punjab ombudsman, the then principal secretary to the chief minister Dr. Tauqeer Shah has been posted as principal secretary to PM, the then deputy commissioner Lahore Capt (r) Usman Yunus has become commissioner Lahore Division. The then IGP Mushtaq Ahmad Sukhera was posted as federal tax ombudsman, former DIG Operations Lahore Rana Abdul Jabbar and then SP Security Salman Ali Khan are also enjoying service.

He said that they were waiting and watching the situation and after Ramazan, the PAT would make a strategy. From writing letters to the relevant quarters to human rights organizations about the present scenario to the issuance of a white paper, all means would be utilized, he added.

It’s to be recalled that PAT had written a letter when Dr. Tauqeer Shah was appointed to the World Trade Organisation as the country’s representative. The PTI government had to withdraw his WTO posting and no other action was taken against him because of his bureaucratic background.

Responding to another question, he said that “we don’t want to protest on the streets and roads as we have committed to the Supreme Court. We don’t want to make the issue political. If the team of our lawyers thought it appropriate, we will place a white paper on the issue. We have hired a top team of senior Supreme Court lawyers, including Ali Zafar, former law minister Khalid Ranjha and senior advocate Azhar Siddique, etc, to plead this case in the courts”.

Tariq Ali, an advocate, has said that it was a shame for the criminal justice system that it could not punish mighty criminals. He said that traditionally, the state was always a prosecutor in all the criminal cases. But, usually it failed to fulfill its responsibility so crime was on the rise.

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