Even as the investigation into the Sahiwal incident continues, the country has witnessed yet another example of not so dissimilar a brutality. This past Saturday, civil and political rights activist and a college professor Arman Loni died in Loralai, reportedly after or while being beaten up by the police. Ironically, this happened at a peaceful protest by civil rights activists over a militant attack at the office of the DIG Zhob Range on January 29, which had resulted in the death of nine persons (eight of them policemen). While the police maintain that their actions did not lead to Arman’s death, it is difficult to assume that the victim chose this manner of death voluntarily. According to Arman’s sister, who is also a rights activist, and social media posts by other human rights defenders, Arman was killed as a result of police brutality. The chief minister of Balochistan has, in the meanwhile, directed the commissioner of Zhob district to investigate the incident and present a report within 48 hours. We can only hope that this is not a routine show.
We don’t have the best history when it comes to alleged or actual actions by law-enforcement personnel against ordinary civilians. From the recent carnage in Sahiwal to the murder of Naqeebullah Mehsud, in cases that involve law-enforcement officials, rogue or otherwise, it is easy to smell the powerful wanting to protect their own with brazen instances of cover-up. Therefore, in this incident, as in others, a fully independent inquiry, with findings made public credibly, may be the only step towards justice. When defenceless citizens are killed by authorities that are theoretically there to protect their life and liberty, it is a blood-stained indictment of the state of our civil liberties. That a near-complete silence by mainstream media and major political parties – with the possible exception of the PPP – followed in the wake of the latest such incident only compounds the tragedy of the tattered relationship between the state and its citizens.
This editorial on Prof Arman Loni’s death was published in The News, Feb 5, 2019