Motorway tragedy exposes severe governance flaws

Makhdoom Babar

Media, social media and every house hold today is buzzing with the horrific news of the mother of three, travelling on the Lahore – Sialkot motorway section, brutally raped in front of her kids after her car ran out of fuel and she was waiting for her husband to bring fuel supply. The poor rape victim, before falling to the brutality of the inhumane rapists, called every official quarter to help her but her requests were only entertained with excuses on the official help lines.
Different media persons as well as social media activist are giving different angles to this news which has suddenly emerged as a national tragedy. As if what happened was not enough, the Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) of Lahore, Mr. Umar Sheikh, who had already become rather controversial, a couple of days back with his superior, the Inspector General of police, came up with a very derogatory statement, questioning the victim for taking the isolated motorway instead of the bustling GT road and also of not checking the fuel before starting her journey. Though the ministers and other politicians of the ruling and opposition parties condemned the rape tragedy as well as the CCPO’s statement yet apparently the most dignified PTI minister Asad Umer, in a TV talk show stated very blatantly that the government was unable to take action against the CCPO for such a derogatory and unbecoming statement as his statement was surely indecorous but not illegal.
In the background of this tragedy and the CCPO’s statement, some segment of society are showing are showing deep regrets over the occurrence of the tragedy while others are targeting CCPO and demanding his removal. While some are terming it as a police failure in protecting citizen, others are hitting hard on Chief Minister Punjab, Interior Ministry and Law enforcement agencies.
Surprisingly, no one is thinking of the fact that it was actually a crystal clear case of deep ditched flaws in the governance capacity of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government and especially his cabinet members. It is most astonishing that the most relevant minister, the Communication Minister, young Murad Saeed who has been making tall claims consistently about increasing the revenue of the government by adding new roads and highways to the system and imposing new tolls and taxes on these highways, roads and motorways.
This gentleman is yet to issue a single statement as to why he ordered installing of toll plazas to collect toll without caring for the safety of the people paying the toll for that rather isolated motorway section, prior to starting collection of those tolls. It appears that the order of the day for Mr. Khan’s cabinet members is only to generate more and more revenue without caring for service and protection of those who contribute to this revenue generation.
It is worth mentioning here that when this section of the motorway was inaugurated both Mr. Saeed and his Prime Minister termed it as a gift of the PTI government to the people -perhaps Mr. Saeed and his government should have warned us to take the gift at our own risk as he and his government were only focused on increasing revenue and economy at all costs. Again perhaps, it was the revenue generation and economy focused tuitions given to the ministers and officials of the government that prevented the Ministry of Communication to increase the strength of the existing national highways and motorway police and that is why NH and MP was not directed to start even standard operations on this ‘gifted’ section of the motorway, despite the collection of revenue operations starting months and months ago.
Similarly, the Chief of national highways and motorway Mr. Kaleem Imam has also not come up with any statement for not having his staff operational on the said section of the motorway while his department’s name is National Highway and Motorway Police and Lahore – Sialkot motorway obviously falls in his jurisdiction. It appears that all the government functionaries are hiding their utmost governance and operational failure and are happy to see a petty CCPO coming to the centre stage and receiving all the thrust of the entire episode.
The Daily Mail would now like to discuss another aspect of the governance failure. Now this concerns the statement of Mr. Asad Umer in which he admitted that the statement made by the CCPO was inappropriate and astonishing but not illegal so the government was not in a position to take any action against him. Similarly, Minister of State for Interior Barrister Shahzad Akbar ran an extra mile and showed utmost solidarity with the CCPO Lahore, appeared before media for a joint press conference with CCPO Lahore and advised the media to avoid controversy out of CCPO’s statement.
It is worth mentioning that a couple of days ago both the federal government and Punjab government stood by the said CCPO and instead removed his superior, who refused to take the CCPO under his sub ordinance. However after CCPO Lahore puked his actual mindset through that highly controversial and unpleasant statement, the government ministers, despite admitting the crassness of his statement are showing no reluctance in keeping him on the same slot and are instead showing their helplessness in taking any action against him because what he said was apparently not inappropriate or ‘illegal’ enough. It appears that perhaps the former IGP Punjab was quite clear about the actual mindset of CCPO to the point that he refused to keep him in his team but likely those who appointed him insisted to keep him there despite his superior briefing them about his professional and personality flaws made it a matter of ego instead of going for a smooth governance action.
The Daily Mail believes it is highly tragic that while government ministers are condemning and slamming the CCPO’s statement, nobody is ready to move an inch from egoistic stands are not interested in removing this very small pawn of a very big governance mechanism.
The Daily Mail very strongly recommends that it is about time that the government should plug out such emerging governance flaws and start taking cautious decisions instead of later wasting time in damage control.
The Daily Mail very firmly believes that Communication Minister, Motorway Police and the Interior Minister must explain their positions and if nothing else, the Punjab government along with Federal government should ask the CCPO Lahore to explain his position over the statement.
The Daily Mail fears that if the crass in CCPO Lahore’s statement is not taken seriously by the government, it will bring more trouble for female motorist and at every check post of police, female motorist would be asked similar absurd questions that the CCPO Lahore raised.
Similarly, if the Communication Minister would not come forward with an explanation of not placing motorway police on patrol for proper patrolling, not only the people of Pakistan will start fearing while travelling on these highways and motorways but it will also have serious impacts on CPEC, the most important segment of economic development and revenue generation.
The government must prioritize revenue generation and safety provision. We believe that the motorway episode and subsequent revelation of the mindset of the senior police officers posted on important posts are actually not a law and order situation but governance concern.