The Lahore High Court has ordered the authorities to release a judicial inquiry report prepared by Justice Ali Baqar Najafi on the killings of Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) workers during 2014 Model Town incident.
On first look, this is very bad publicity for the Sharif family.With Shehbaz Sharif scheduled to leave for London, the speculation mill is working in overdrive, implying that the second branch of the Sharif family is also seeking exile abroad.
Shehbaz was one of the few members of the Sharif family who was left relatively unscathed after the Panama scandal and was considered a possible contender for the head of the political empire after Nawaz.
Any implication on Shehbaz would be a great blot to the already damaged Sharif name.
However, this might not go all that badly for Shahbaz, as long as he plays his cards right.
The worst thing that the provincial government can do is provide a defensive and aggressive response, which it is attempting to do by filing appeal against the single bench order.
By keeping the report hidden, the Punjab government only creates unnecessary speculation and gives the PAT ammunition to continue shooting the government with, which is the last thing that Shahbaz needs. If not given access to the report, the public will issue its own verdict.
Instead of contesting the LHC decision as it plans to do, the government should simply release the report now. More importantly, the fourteen lives lost and many more injured have made this a matter of public interest and it is the right of people to know.
Keeping the report hidden is also against the government’s own freedom of information laws, which were promulgated after the incident.
If sources showing Shahbaz has been personally exonerated are correct, the only thing Shahbaz risks by releasing the report is criticism, which he is receiving now anyway.
If he doesn’t release the report, he will be left entirely to the court of suspicion and slander, and that is perhaps the most vicious of all – and the last thing the Sharif family and the party needs.