BY: |Hamid Mir|
Not the first time weve been hit by a tragedy of this magnitude. We have seen this happen in our homeland several times before when the state, instead of taking care of its citizens & acting like a mother, has acted like a coldblooded murderer. Evidences were aplenty against the real culprits, yet they were never punished because they were mightier than their innocent victims.
The bereaved families were sometimes consoled through fake promises of justice being served, other times the glove was taken off and threats & force were used. Many a time raising voice against the oppressors was termed as treasonous and thus many such tragedies were forgotten on the pretext of National Interest. But some tragedies alter the consciences of whole nations and everyone starts feeling helpless over being unable to control our joint destinies. An old aide of Imran Khan just reminded me of one such tragedy that struck a few years back in the then Federally Administered Tribal Agency (FATA) of Bajaur, for which I, along with Imran Khan, protested vociferously. I did remember the incident, but had forgotten its details, so this aide informed me that this whole incident & its characters are saved in Imran Khans book, Pakistan, A Personal History. When this book was published in 2011, Mr Khan had himself gifted me a copy along with his autograph on it, which I was able to find in my library.
In this book Khan has depicted how State institutions, in the name of War on Terror, have used lethal & excessive force against own citizens, most of whom were unarmed & innocent. He related one such example of Khalilul Rehman, the then president of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Bajaur. He penned, in 2008 Khalil was travelling with his family when a helicopter suddenly appeared over their car. Khalil stopped his car & instructed all occupants to step outside with their hands over their heads. However, just as they appeared outside, the Helicopter started raining fire on them and as a result Khalils brother and his nephew died on the spot. His 7 year old son lost both his legs. Moreover, Khan wrote, after the incident he took Khalil with him to the most watched talk show in Pakistan, Capital Talk, where Khalil stated on-air that though, he is still willing to sacrifice his life for Pakistan, but he cannot prevent his family members from joining Taliban after this tragedy.
Once this particular episode of Capital Talk was broadcast, a storm erupted in Pakistan, with everyone accusing us of being traitors to our homeland. State institutions expressed their annoyance by sending us notices through PEMRA, whereas Khans political opponents accused him of sympathising with Taliban and hence the name Taliban Khan was born. When Human Rights Organizations took notice of the incident, an inquiry committee was formed to look into it. Khan remained active to bring findings of that inquiry report out in the public for a while, but then he forgot all about Khalilul Rehman and he was never awarded a PTI ticket in both 2013 & 2018 General Elections. Khalil, who joined PTI in 1996, is still in the party 23 years later and maybe that is why Khans old aide reminded me of this incident from 2008 & Khans reaction at the time. He said, back then our leader used to raise his voice against state atrocities, along with you & the rest of the media, but now although hes the Prime Minister, PEMRA is still using same old tactics & acting like it used to, when the media seeks answers on Sahiwal tragedy & the governments weak response afterwards?
Following the Sahiwal tragedy Allah Almighty gave a 10 year old boy Umair the courage to speak the truth and reveal facts surrounding the coldblooded murder of his parents and sister before his eyes. If Umair had not spoken before the media, state Institutions would have termed him as a terrorists son. Adding insult to injury was Chief Minister Punjab Usman Buzdars visit to Umair in hospital, where the CM was carrying a flower bouquet against all norms & traditions of our culture. Luckily, Umair was asleep at the time of CMs visit, but that didnt stop the CM from getting a photo-op done with sleeping Umair, with the bouquet lying by his bedside. These pictures distressed all of us further who were already saddened by this gruesome, deplorable tragedy.
I dont have any personal grudge or enmity towards CM Buzdar, in fact when he was named as CM Punjab, I completely endorsed his candidacy due to him belonging to a poorer & neglected part of Punjab, South Punjab. A few days back, the CM came to my house and invited me to accompany him to his hometown of Taunsah Sharif, where he said that the people of his town want to meet me. I accepted his invitation promptly, but reminded him that his governments 6 months are nearing completion and he now has to show good governance & performance to strengthen himself in front of PM Khan, who holds him in high esteem. However, I regret to say that following Sahiwal tragedy, CM Buzdar hasnt met our expectations. PM Khan had some inkling of the gravity of the situation and the nations agony over the Sahiwal incident, but CM Buzdar was completely oblivious to the same. The bereaved families had to block main roads with the bodies of their loved ones just to get the First Information Report (FIR) lodged.
Iftikhar Durrani, special assistant to PM Khan, has already informed me that it wasnt CM Buzdars idea to take a flower bouquet for little Umair, but someone else handed him that at the hospital. But why would he take it? How would he feel if tomorrow, God forbid, someone in his family is murdered and I present him with a bouquet to express my condolences?
CM Buzadar had promised us that findings of Joint Investigation Team (JIT) would be made public within 72 hours. Although that never happened, but some police officers were still transferred. State institutions are now claiming that Khalil and his family were innocent, but Zeeshan who was driving the vehicle, was an accomplice of the terrorists. On the other hand, PTI still has brave & defiant leaders like Andaleeb Abbas & Zartaj Gul Wazir, who have listened to their consciences. Andaleeb Abbas has refused to accept the state-laid terrorism allegations against Zeeshan and has sought an apology from his family, whereas Zartaj Gul Wazir also expressed her shock and refused to accept states narrative. This defiance was once Imran Khans trait and strength. Today, after becoming head of government, to give us hope he should still maintain this reputation. The reputation to stand with the oppressed, not the oppressor.
Imran Khan must now defy the allegations hurled by the murderers, because today apart from a few sycophants, the entire nation has called the version presented by the murderers a lie.