EDITORIAL: The recently-released JIT reports, especially the one about Uzair Baloch, seem to have opened quite a can of worms. First, there was one report, then there were two, then it turned out that there was one report, about Uzair, but it had two parts and the second one, which exposed the ugly embrace between crime and politics (or politicians) was never even meant to see the light of day. And what a strange set of events eventually brought it to everybody's notice, though in parts, just the other day. For if the present federal minister for maritime affairs hadn't found it in a mysterious envelop at his doorstep one fine day, long before he was in government, and he hadn't then taken it to the Sindh High Court, the part that the Sindh government uploaded on its website the other day would have been all of it as far as the general public is concerned. Now it is all the rage and PPP and PTI are shouting and pointing fingers at each other in parliament and on prime time TV, and the matter of the Lyari gangster's patronage has led to yet another great political confrontation.
But why not just make the whole report public and put the matter to rest? Why must the federal government have the minister for maritime affairs talk about it in a press conference and have the information minister sit beside him for the sake of optics? Since federal agencies were involved in the investigation, and the whole thing falls under the purview of the ministry of interior, the government should simply upload the complete report, without any held-back 'top secret' parts, on its website. Yet the interior minister is nowhere to be seen and Ali Zaidi continues, for all intents and purposes, to present the government's position on the matter; also urging the Supreme Court to take notice of it. Letting everybody see the truth as it comes out would not only be the right thing to do, it would also be in keeping with Imran Khan's and PTI's stated objective of transparency. After all, the government only very recently won praise for doing just that after the PIA plane crash in Karachi when it released investigation reports of all airline crashes, which had been gathering dust in government offices for years. So why the hesitation this time?
Interestingly, of the seven-member investigation committee - all of whom signed on the first part of the report that told what Uzair did - only four attested to the second part which detailed who made him do it. They also called for further investigation into the matter. The government should now, in keeping with its own promise as well as requirements of the law, make all findings public and proceed with the further investigation that is required. And everybody that is mentioned must be probed, whether they are political actors, non-political personalities or even political parties. Those found clean should of course be acknowledged as such and those found dirty must be dealt with according to the law. This would definitely be a much better approach than appearing indecisive and letting one man bat for the whole team.
It seems we refuse to learn some lessons as a nation, especially about matters like investigation reports, committees, commissions, etc. JITs seem to be all over the place over the last few years; to the point of getting one sitting prime minister disqualified. Yet for some reason the state allows very few people to see most of them. It was precisely because of this strange habit that the pain of our most famous debacle, the fall of Dhaka (then Dacca), was much amplified when the Hamoodur Rehman Commission Report, which was not released by the government of Pakistan, was ultimately published in India. That was, needless to say, a cause for great national embarrassment. The PTI government has an opportunity to correct this trend. The people of Pakistan know only too well just how the first federal capital, the country's largest city, its financial hub and once the city that never slept, Karachi, was reduced to ruin. And the government has no business preventing them from knowing who is responsible. If there is a report, it should be made public; it is as simple as that. Besides, it's not as if there are any national secrets in it. Hopefully, assurance that PTI is preparing to take all the right kinds of action will come true sooner rather than later.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2020