Authorities Fail To Arrest Pervez Elahi Despite Overwhelming Show Of Force

Authorities Fail To Arrest Pervez Elahi Despite Overwhelming Show Of Force
Despite unprecedented assistance from Punjab police, including the deployment of an armored personnel carrier (APC), the Punjab Anti Corruption Establishment (ACE) was unable to arrest former Punjab chief minister and PTI president Pervez Elahi from his Gulberg Lahore residence yesterday night (Friday April 28).

Scenes captured by mainstream media showed the APC ramming the gate of Elahi's residence, and then entering inside once it had broken the gate. Images showed a heavy contingent of police, and other officials in plainclothes, on Elahi's property but outside the main door of his residence.

It had been reported that Punjab ACE was in the final stages of registering a case against Elahi for illegal appointments, promotions and transfers when he was speaker of the Punjab Assembly. It was also reported that ACE would arrest Elahi after Eid-ul-Fitr. The National Accountability Bureau (NAB), Pakistan's federal corruption watchdog, also wrote to Spanish authorities in order to inquire about Elahi's and his son Moonis Elahi's ill-gotten wealth stashed away in that European country.

In spite of all the chaotic scenes and heavy show of force, the police and anti-corruptions officials had to return empty handed. While it is unclear whether Pervez Elahi was inside his residence or not, it is now obvious that law enforcers were not able to arrest him despite an hours-long 'operation'.

The incident itself was a reminder of how the rule of law is different for ordinary citizens than for the elites, who can escape the long arm of the law even when it knocks at their door. PTI leaders and supporters are raising hue and cry over the "dismantling of democracy" in Pakistan, claiming that Pervez Elahi had secured bail from the courts. But, like Khan, Elahi secured pre-arrest bail in some, not all, of the cases against him. Moreover, there is an ongoing investigation regarding Elahi's and Moonis' involvement in corrupting judicial officers.

Since the end of February this year, former premier and PTI chairman Imran Khan has also been facing multiple cases against him, some of which have matured to the stage where his arrest must be executed in accordance with law and precedent. In such cases, his bail was revoked and his arrest warrants were issued, but authorities were unable to implement court orders and perform Khan's arrest. Scenes of violence and tear-gas shelling, which according to Khan's own supporters resembled Indian-occupied Kashmir, erupted whenever police attempted to approach Khan's Zaman Park residence to serve a notice or a warrant.

Eventually, the state appeared to relent and retreat, giving Khan a pass every single time. Not only was Imran Khan never arrested, but he was also extended unimaginable relief by the superior courts, which canceled his bail or revoked orders to not arrest the former premier, only to reinstate them later, when Khan came to the court or when some other assurance from him was accepted. While some cases continue to haunt the PTI chairman, he was also fearful of arrest during Eid-ul-Fitr.

Yesterday's incident is yet another reminder that in Pakistan, those who claim to be champions of the rule of law are themselves accused of violating the law, and those who present themselves as anti-corruption heroes are accused if not guilty of corrupt practices themselves. It remains the responsibility of state - which has been weakened not only by the emergence of a hybrid regime, but also by its implosion in April 2022 - to ensure the rule of law, dispensation of justice, presumption of innocence before guilt, and equality of all citizens before law.

But in a country where even judges can no longer be trusted as unbiased arbiters of disputes, the other pillars of state - an emaciated parliament, a vilified government, a ridiculed miltablishment, and an increasingly discredited mainstream media - also seem to be in no position to initiate any course correction.