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Editorial | Rana Sanaullah Case: The Damage To Law And Order Is Done

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As noted in our earlier editorial, the government’s narrative around PML-N leader Rana Sanaullah’s arrest unravelled very fast. Arguably, it was bound to unravel from the very moment of his arrest. But now there is a major difference – one that will not go away no matter how much the ruling party’s devotees pretend otherwise.

It is now official that the judiciary views political victimization as an “open secret”, to quote from the judgment in Rana Sanaullah’s case. Earlier, even this editorial spoke only of a strong correlation between opposition to the current government and legal troubles of the kind that Sanaullah has faced. That correlation is now being seen as a direct relationship – on the basis of which the judicial authorities have granted bail to the outspoken PML-N leader.

As the government’s narrative fell apart, prominent PTI figures tried to take refuge behind various excuses. One of the most obvious is Shehryar Afridi, who was interior minister at the time when Rana Sanaullah was arrested. After months of claiming that the case against the opposition leader was strong because he, Afridi, had to give up his soul to God one day, the story has now changed. We are now called upon to trust that the government acted in good faith not because of Afridi’s good faith, but because of some spurious new distinction between “footage”, which the government claimed to possess at that time; and “video evidence”, which is what most people understand when an official claims that they have “footage” of a crime.

It would be futile to concern ourselves with the details of the ruling party’s ever evolving pronouncements.

Instead, it is now time to ask very directly the following question: how much of the sanctity of law and order is going to be irreparably damaged before the ruling party and its backers have had enough?

For it is only inevitable that this appalling process must, of necessity, come to an end in the medium- to long-term. But once the romp comes to an end, it will have given birth to a more lawless society than before.

Firstly, from now on, how can we be confident that a large quantity of drugs will not be planted upon the average columnist, commentator, journalist, politician or common citizen of Pakistan if they say something which the (currently) mighty don’t approve of?

Secondly, in the future, what stops an actual arrested drug-dealer from claiming that they were busted not in a lawful effort to protect society but as part of political victimization by those in power?

The damage to law and order is done. What now remains to be seen is how to undo it in the future, for that will be a difficult process indeed. 

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