Killed In The Line Of Duty: Abdul Quddus Sheikh’s Murder Is Our Collective Failure
Zafar Sahi writes about the senseless killing of Deputy Collector Customs Quetta Dr Abdul Quddus Sheikh at the hands of suspected smugglers and terms the incident our collective failure.
Imagine being a dutiful officer of the state. Imagine fulfilling the promises you made to yourself that you would play your part in ensuring a better tomorrow for future generations and your unborn children. Imagine fulfilling those promises now with the then unborn child now waiting for you at home. Imagine refusing bribes and ignoring threats; being steadfast in your resolve.
Imagine being proud of an operation you just conducted that exposed a gang of criminals and resulted in significant financial gains for the state.
Imagine going home after a day spent living up to your oath and the expectations of more than 220 million people who pray day and night for their state servants to be honest, upright and devoted to their duty without fear of favour. Imagine being that kind of an officer; fulfilling your dream where you wanted to be the change you want to see. Imagine being Dr. Abdul Quddus Shaikh.
Imagine being pulled out of your car by thugs, being beaten and kicked, thrown to the ground, getting rifle butt blows to your head and face, being outnumbered, alone and helpless, knowing that any one of these blows could be fatal. Imagine the resolves, the promises, the child, the family and your life flashing before your eyes while slowly and gradually these animals in human sheaths gnaw at your life; at the resolve of others like you in the service; at the writ of the state and at the expectations of over 220 million people.
Imagine knowing you are not the first to suffer the consequences for being loyal to your oath and dedicated to your duty; imagine hoping you are the last.
While we were busy in controversial videos, rebuttals and denials, diplomatic embarrassments faced by the government and a lot of other nonsense, something grave was unfolding. A mother was losing her son; a wife her husband; a toddler her father; state a valuable servant and its writ; and a people their hope for a better tomorrow.
A Deputy Collector Customs was fighting for his life because a gang of smugglers wanted to set an example, to show their might and to flaunt their nonchalant disregard for the state and all that it holds sacred.
Dr. Shaikh lost his battle on the 9th of July and left his family in grief, his child orphaned and all of us a little more perturbed and a little more desperate to see the state unleash its wrath on the culprits and bring down on their heads the iron hammer that is its writ. But the hammer is rusty.
Each time a public servant was killed by criminals he had brought to justice, each time those criminals remained “unidentified”, each time a complainant was forced to retract his statement by the powerful or the rich, each time a union’s protest brought the government to its knees and forced it to amend or rescind a legitimate and valid piece of legislation, each time the state caved in to the demands made at dharnas and lock-downs by fanatics and entered into agreements – the hammer rusted.
Each time the hammer had to shift hands because the civilians were too corrupt or the dictator got too dictatorial, the hammer rusted. Each time the hands on the hammer did not agree upon where it needs to fall, the hammer rusted.
Each time the people’s mandate was stolen and elections were rigged bringing in a government that the people didn’t own or whose mandate they didn’t deem legitimate, the hammer rusted. Each time the judiciary was refrained from doing its job of delivering justice by way of incompetence, bribes or intimidation; by secret blackmailing or by phone calls from Chief Ministers to Chief Justices, the hammer rusted.
Everyone; each and every one of us played our part in weakening the writ of our own state; in pushing justice out of our own reach; in the murder of Dr. Abdul Quddus Shaikh and many before him.
So please go ahead, do condemn the murder, do curse the murderers, do show your outrage, do criticise the state for inaction, do extend condolences to the bereaved family, do pity the orphaned toddler, do make promises of never letting this happen again, do make tall claims, do show solidarity across institutions; for a few days or more as we always do.
But for heaven’s sake, for the first time, let us also accept responsibility for our part in this. As politicians, generals, judges, journalists, bureaucrats, religious leaders, union leaders, doctors, lawyers, as whosoever we are; it is all of us and the fact that we did not do what we needed to and did what we ought not have done that has rusted the hammer and thrown the writ of our state to the dogs. Let us accept responsibility and let us begin mending.
The author is a lawyer based in Lahore. He is also a former member of Punjab Assembly.