Thursday, May 21, 2015

Daily Times Editorial May 22, 2015

‘Amazing’ success In an ‘amazing’ turnaround, both Federal Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar and Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah have announced in press conferences in Islamabad and Karachi respectively that the masterminds and perpetrators of the Safoora Chowk massacre of Ismailis and the murder of T2F founder Sabeen Mahmud have been arrested within days of the first incident. If so, it is an unprecedentedly rapid nabbing of terrorism perpetrators. The arrests have undoubtedly taken place, and it is entirely believable that arms and ammunition too have been found from them. However, there are some aspects of the whole affair that give pause for thought. First and foremost, the earlier claims by both gentlemen that Indian intelligence agency RAW was behind these and other terrorist incidents now seems to be nothing but an embarrassment for them, one that they are trying to distance themselves from in the best way possible. While Chaudhry Nisar was not very forthcoming on the issue, dismissing a question on the matter with a flippant remark that they are all foreign hands, why concentrate on just one name or explanation, Syed Qaim Ali Shah found it expedient to say that he had named RAW in the context of what he claims have been its activities in the past from Balochistan to Karachi. Now this is rich, but then we have already cautioned all top officials to refrain from kite flying in such serious matters, particularly where loose talk could damage relations with our neighbours. Those chickens are now coming home to roost and the RAW theory has suffered a severe blow. Having said that, it is still not clear which is the organisation the arrested alleged perpetrators belong to. Chaudhry Nisar cryptically says proscribed organisations such as Islamic State and the Taliban are linked and are collaborating in such activities. Perhaps, but then any further kite flying must also be avoided. In this respect Qaim Ali Shah at least had the sense to argue that the Joint Investigation Team set up to look into the matter should be allowed to finish its work before any pronouncements as to who or what is involved are made. What is really worrying about this ‘success’ is not only the rapidity with which the long arm of the law reached out and nabbed these alleged terrorists, but also the plethora of crimes they have confessed to, including the assassination of Sabeen Mahmud and the attack that injured Debra Lobo. Not only that, the authorities are also claiming that the accused have confessed to many other terrorist actions against civilians and security forces personnel. Now we may be forgiven some scepticism, given our police’s ‘talent’ in getting anyone in custody to ‘confess’ to any and every crime under the sun because of the ‘excellent interrogation techniques’ our police is justly famous for. The wags have it that our redoubtable law enforcers can get anyone to confess that a horse is an elephant, what to talk of responsibility for heinous crimes and terrorist actions. The problem with such confessions is whether they can stand up to scrutiny in a court of law. The accused cannot be stopped from rejecting their confession before the court as having been extracted through torture. Unless then, the authorities have evidence and proof beyond the confessions and circumstantial details, a possible bigger embarrassment awaits in whatever judicial forum the case may eventually be brought before, provided of course it is a proper judicial forum and not the military courts set up recently and that have aroused so much controversy already. It may be in the fitness of things (not to mention in the interests of the self-preservation of whatever credibility they have left) for our politicians, particularly top officials, whether federal or provincial, to refrain from making tall claims and assertions even before all the evidence has been gathered after investigation, merely to show themselves in a better light than widespread public perception. This practice may yield temporary benefits, but if it unravels in the long run, it may return to haunt the claimants. Convenient it may appear to have ‘solved’ the Safoora massacre, Sabeen Mahmud’s assassination, the attack on Debra Lobo and sundry other terrorism cases in one fell blow, but the sceptics and critics may be forgiven for reaching for the salt cellar.

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