What happened in Sahiwal has shocked the conscience of the nation – and legitimately so. If we allow law enforcement agencies to determine who is a terrorist, then public squares will witness mob justice and extra judicial killings, as a norm. Next could be the writer of this column or its reader.It was a disproportionate use of force, even if CTD had actionable intelligence, no attempt was made to arrest the accused and save the lives of innocent people – labelling as collateral damage, reduces the sanctity of life to a mere number; a thing that never has breathed life nor has a soul. And this language and this discourse, where we discard the loss of life callously as collateral damage, is not normal – it should not be accepted as normal – for that would be a greater vice. For context, Sahiwal tragedy is not an isolated incident. It has happened in Kharotabad and Karachi before. Just because such incidents are not reported does not mean, they have not occurred – especially away from the urban centers and along the western border. If it were not for the video footage of private citizens, then aided by the dossier of law enforcement agencies, the media would have carried a news item that four (nameless) terrorists were killed.The Sahiwal incident is an abject failure of the state in responding to the tragedy as “all cases of firing which have resulted in death or grievous injury” are to be “reviewed by an internal inquiry committee constituted by the head of the law enforcement agency concerned” under the law. This implies we distrust the very department entrusted to keep us safe. And for good reasonAs a state that had to wrestle with terrorism, we have sanctioned such acts of cold-blooded murder in our laws. Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997 under section 5 gives sweepingly broad powers to our law enforcement agencies to justify such madness if such actions are taken in good faith. Under the law, a subjective assessment of a situation by an officer on duty cannot be questioned; so, we cannot second guess if the officer reasonably believed he acted on credible prior information or that sufficient warning was ever given to the victim or that force, including shots taken at point blank range, were in fact an option exercised as last resort. Similar powers were extended under the Protection of Pakistan Act, 2014 under section 3 – that have since lapsed. This shows the reckless trend in legislations with little regard on the chilling impact it might have on human rights. Instead, the courts are asked to intervene to fill the legislative gaps and carve out exceptions in statutes; based on circumstantial evidence. The Sahiwal incident is an abject failure of the state in responding to the tragedy as “all cases of firing which have resulted in death or grievous injury” are to be “reviewed by an internal inquiry committee constituted by the head of the law enforcement agency concerned” under the law. This implies we distrust the very department entrusted to keep us safe. And for good reason. Multiple versions, one after the other, contradicting and improving the account every time, have emerged in what appears to be responses formulated in sheer panic. Heads that will roll, suspensions or transfers et cetera, after the JIT report – will merely be cosmetic. However, such incidents will not be stopped like this.The state needs to prioritize the training of law enforcement agencies under its security laws, sensitize officers on duty of the consequences of reckless acts. It must also focus on the mental health of officers on duty – religious sermons are not adequate. We cannot afford to have trigger happy yahoos roaming around as a part of the law enforcement agencies. They are an equal threat – if not greater, than terrorists, to the society. Trial of the men in the footage is Naya Pakistan’s real challenge in the short run. In the long run, along with revisiting existing security laws, greater focus should be on the training of law enforcement officers to avoid tragedy in the future.But all of this is noise – for the three children, who survived. The writer attended Berkeley and is a Barrister of Lincoln’s Inn Published in Daily Times, January 25th 2019.