LAHORE - The death of 27 people on Youm-e-Ishqe Rasool (SAW) is very painful indeed and it raises the question as to who should be held responsible.
Of these dead, 20 were killed in Karachi and seven in Peshawar where intense clashes between the police and the furious mobs occurred. The casualties included few policemen too.
A number of persons from religious parties as well as the general public have been hauled up and cases registered against thousands of unnamed accused primarily for causing loss to the public and the private properties but no one has been specifically arrested for taking life.
In a flashback of the Friday scenes, we see angry mobs pelting stones on the police, torching properties and even resorting to firing, and receiving bullets, teargas shelling, and baton charge in return from the law enforcers.
The call for protest rallies was given by religious organisations which was later backed by the political parties as well on the ground that it was an occasion to express strong resentment over what the US movie makers had done to malign Islam and desecrate Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
The government, apparently in a bid to avert political damage, announced to officially observe Yaum-e-Ishqe-Rasool (SAW). All sides pledged to keep the protest totally peaceful. But the protests turned violent and precious lives were lost, besides injuries to over 250 people.
An important factor in this episode was that not only the access of the protesters was blocked to the American Embassy in Islamabad and its consulates in other cities but the roads leading to the declared venues of their meetings were also sealed with giant containers and barbed wire.
When none of the organisers of the rallies – the religious and political parties, and the government – did not want violence, who could be blamed for the bloody incidents? Was there some outside element involved or did the mismanagement and mishandling of the situation by the authorities led to the clashes and casualties; or was it done intentionally?
Let’s know how the said queries are treated at the police end and what the law says on this count?
After announcing a day to record protest, it was responsibility of the federal government, in the first instance, to prepare a comprehensive strategy to prevent the violent mob, said a former IG of the Punjab Police.
To a query he said the police or any other law enforcement agency cannot be held primarily responsible for such killings. He, however, said police or other law enforcement agencies will definitely roll back their security plan when the beleaguered public reacts in such an aggressive way.
He said that protection to life is always the top priority for any government but the government itself becomes accountable when it is found involved in such incidents.
The ex-IG was frank enough to say that the case registered against over 6,000 unnamed persons aims at hushing up the matter and if any intention is there to fix the responsibility, cases need to be registered against law and interior/home ministers, politicians and other senior functionaries of both federal and provincial governments.
Former Federal Law Minister S M Zafar says any act carried out outside the limits of law is considered in view of the damage it caused and action on the same is taken accordingly. In case of police, he said, they resorted to firing in performance of their duties under the law, the act will be deemed in the discharge of duties and if any malafide is involved, the same will be treated the other way.
Zafar said in the Friday’s killings the question whether police actually fired without any malafide intent and also that as to who had killed the police persons, will preliminary be found out through inquiry by a commission which would be followed by the legal action against the accused.
He said an FIR can be registered against the unknown accused persons, and responsibility on the actual perpetrators can be fixed even through investigations at the police level. But whether persons accused in the police investigations are culprits, has to be determined by the court after looking at all aspects of the matter, he added.
Former law Minister Dr Khalid Ranjha said that fist of all the persons who have been identified through cameras and caught in the act by the TV channels would be held responsible for the death and be tried accordingly. As to the question under what spirit and fit of emotion they resorted to violent acts, has become secondary after their identification as only that would be considered which meets the eyes.
As to the police, he said, since policemen act under direction of their superiors so the motive behind their firing would be gauged at level of their superior. The question if outside elements were involved but not identified and arrested, Dr Ranjha said, it will be determined from the police evidence. He said in such cases, circumstantial evidence in support of both prosecution and the deference is admissible but hardly from among the people anyone comes forward to present the same.