of a kind
Role of law
chance or by training?
There is something about injustice that man by nature abhors, so when we hear of an anecdote about cruelty, it arouses hatred in us for its perpetrators. There are incidents that we never forget, irrespective of whether we were witness to it, knew those affected or did not know the affected persons at all.
We wonder if any of the proposed police reforms in recent years talk about or aim to correct the sadism in the police force. Has anyone tried to figure out why is the police force so brutalised as an institution? Do these studies ask the common citizens of this state what kind of relationship they have with the institution.
This Special Report is about police excesses. Because of the increasing instances of public shaming at the hands of police, because of the state of thanas and the third degree methods they employ and because of the increasing deaths in police encounters. Of course a common citizen of this country never had a benign view of police; most of us have experienced or witnessed the high-handedness of police at some point in our lives; and hence the image of the law-enforcer as brutal, abusive and corrupt.
We tried to find out if the laws of the land allow for these acts of torture inflicted by the police, sometimes to extract confessions, at other times to enforce speedy justice. We discovered no such laws existed. And yet the torture continues, unabated. Of course, there is some extraordinary legislation like the anti-terror laws that has been excessively abused by the police.
Everyone knows that people have been maimed or killed in police custody so we also tried to figure out how many police officers, of all ranks, were convicted on these charges. The number of policemen who faced convictions was almost negligible.
Torture is an accepted tool of policing and yet our police has been unsuccessful in combating crime or protecting its ctitizens. Or is it unsuccessful because it has used torture as a tool? All future police reform initiatives must focus on this aspect.
State of police rule
The colonial roots and the neo-colonial influences on Pakistani police coupled with an undemocratic political system and traditional sources of social authority create an enormous human-munching machine which is totally devoid of any idea of welfare of the citizens
By Saeed Ur Rehman
Before the emergence of the modern state, private collectives of soldiers patronised by feudal lords and tribal chiefs performed police work. Their duties were similar to contemporary police but limited territorially to the village or tribal level. The distinction between the military and the police was also not as clear as it is in the contemporary state. All able-bodied men who were capable of administering violence were patronised by the chief for warding off marauding hordes. This system of violence was an informal way of wealth redistribution. All wealthy persons or tribes were at risk of being attacked and had to maintain private guards, soldiers, police, spies, and informants to prepare against impending attacks.
With the arrival of the modern state on the horizon of human societies, violence became formal and procedural. At least that was the promise of the state. The state was supposed to have an absolute monopoly over violence. There shall be no informal torture, looting, kidnapping, murder, or even parental beating. Everybody was a citizen and the person of the citizen was sacrosanct. This promise underpinned the contract that enabled the state to extract taxes. The taxpayers' money was used to pay the expenses of maintaining the armed forces, the police, the executive, the legislative, and public utilities such as health, education, and support for the indigent. It means the contract was and still is, if the state taxes, mutually binding. In theory, the state cannot break the promise of personal safety and keep collecting revenue.
This promise of the personal safety of every citizen is the raison d'ętre of the police in all modern states, including Pakistan. However, in Pakistan, the police force was not an indigenously evolved institution and is a direct descendent of the police force created by the British in 1843, following the model of The Royal Irish Constabulary, whose function was to maintain law and order and also repress independence movements and revolutionary uprisings. This colonial model of policing was not dependent on a mutually binding social contract. The British Empire could extract revenue and raw material by any means. Moreover, the Empire could finance the police and the army by revenue collected from other parts. It meant that the police did not have to be friendly to the indigenous people of South Asia.
After Independence, the nature of the police has not changed much, though the neo-colonial aid programmes of the United States of America, have introduced some changes to the colonial model. Anyone who has watched the reality shows of American cops grinding the faces of "black and Hispanic offenders" to the footpath can decipher how benign the neo-colonial influence can be for the indigenous population.
The colonial origins and the neo-colonial influences on Pakistani police coupled with an undemocratic political system and traditional sources of social authority create an enormous human-munching machine which is totally devoid of any idea of welfare of the citizens. To substantiate my point, I want to narrate an incident. Once, after an immediate family member was robbed at gunpoint, I approached the 'concerned' police station. The person who was supposed to write the First Investigation Report asked for a bribe. By chance, I had my payslip in my pocket that day which also listed the tax deducted at the source. I showed the sub-inspector the payslip and pointed the listed tax deduction. He asked why I was showing him that piece of paper. I said I was showing him my contribution to the regular payment of his wages. He remarked, "Ik tay eh parhay likhay logan day maslay baray nain!" (These educated people are a real pain in the neck). I still had to use personal contacts to get the case registered. This and many other encounters with the police have produced a distrust of the state's claim as a moral arbiter in Pakistan and many ordinary citizens will tell harrowing tales to support my point.
My argument is simple. If taxation is based on a promise and proactively deducted at the source, why do the police and other state institutions not proactively fulfil the promise of safety? Why are the police not informed that the taxes collected from ordinary citizens provide their uniforms, vehicles, offices, and everything else? Why some of our rulers encourage informal violence and extrajudicial procedures for furthering their own political agendas?
Moreover, other societies have shown awareness of the risks of unbridled power and built institutions to empower ordinary citizens against police excesses. In England, as well as in Australia, France, New Zealand, Mexico, Malaysia, and Portugal, etc, there are legal provisions for empowering the ordinary citizens to make an arrest for any crime which carries a jail punishment. It is called "Citzen's Arrest" and many activists have used it worldwide to apprehend corrupt state officials or to draw media attention to corrupt law-enforcement officers. In Common Law, it is possible, as far as legal theory is concerned, for an ordinary citizen to go and arrest a police officer if the latter is committing a felony. Now if we compare the empowerment of citizenry in our country with those societies where citizens can arrest their torturer or detainer, the picture is quite bleak here.
Generally, the outlaws are not captured alive in police encounters and are allegedly killed on the spot or in police custody
By Waqar Gillani
When it comes to police encounters, Punjab tops the list, compared to other provinces where the ratio of such 'quick fixes' is rather small, as per the data available with the AGHS Legal Aid Cell and Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP).
A closer look at the data shows that the killing of alleged criminals in 'staged encounters' continued in the year 2008. Moreover, a significant rise in these incidents can be traced in Punjab after September last.
According to the data, at least 300 people have been killed in such encounters, in the time period between January 2008 and February 2009, including 220 in 2008 alone, with the majority in Punjab.
It is also noted that, generally, the alleged outlaws were not captured alive in encounters and their relatives allege that in dozens of such incidents those killed happened to be in police custody.
According to media reports, a family in Lahore protested against an alleged fake encounter that had killed two 'robbers' in the first week of February 2008. Another five dacoits were reported as killed in the first week of May, in Lahore. Again, on May 21, the Lahore police allegedly killed a youth in an encounter. On August 19, the police shot dead three (robbers) in an encounter, while September 11 saw four policemen being killed in encounter in Kohat with criminals managing to escape. In mid September, five criminals were killed in three police encounters in Multan and Sahiwal. On Oct 21, four wanted gangsters were gunned down by the police in Faisalabad and on Oct 26 four were killed in Lahore.
On Oct 27, a family of Faisalabad protested against an alleged fake encounter that killed their son. On Nov 5, the police killed two robbers in Faisalabad, while the CIA (Crime Investigation Agency) Lahore shot dead two 'criminals' on Nov 11. One docait was killed in Narowal on Dec 18.
In 2009, the Gujranwala police killed two dacoits including one 'most wanted' Nanho Goraya on Jan 18. Two each were killed in Lahore and Faisalabad on Jan 27 and Feb 3 respectively. On Feb 15, Lahore and Okara police killed three 'robbers' each.
The rise in the quick-fix system of police, mainly in Punjab, under the chief ministership of Shahbaz Sharif, has once again started giving the impression to human rights activists that "extra judicial killings" are going on frequently.
According to the provincial police's own figures, 66 alleged criminals were killed in 2008 in 42 police encounters in Lahore alone. Almost 75 percent of these killings took place while the province was under the current administration's rule. Reportedly, during the previous term of PML-N, between 1997 and 1999, more than 850 suspected criminals were killed in what human rights activists termed "extra-judicial killings."
According to the HRCP annual report 2007, as many as 234 people were killed in police encounters in Punjab alone. In the latest move, Punjab Inspector General (IG) Police Shaukat Javed has directed all Regional Police Officers (RPOs) to hold judicial inquiries into all police encounters in Punjab.
I. A. Rehman, Secretary General, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), terms these encounters as extra judicial killings, and says they serve to brutalise the society in the name of quick justice.
"Only state has the right or authority to take the life of any body through a legal procedure. Unauthorised detentions, police encounters etc also lead to corruption."
He recalls how on his visit to Karachi in 1995, a family demanded the HRCP team to force the police to lodge a case against its son who was illegally detained in a police station for several months.
He says that such excesses tarnish the image of police among the common people. "The situation cannot be redressed until a transparent judicial system is provided."
Talking to TNS, Pervez Rasheed, the newly elected senator and special advisor to the Punjab government, said the government had already ordered judicial inquiry into all police encounters. However, he ruled out the possibility of such encounters being held on the directions of the government or the chief minister.
"We've seen governments, like the previous one, that devised no particular strategy to nab the criminals, including the most wanted ones," he said, adding that the present government has given special attention to curb the criminals.
Certain laws 'empower' the police to unleash terror on citizens with impunity
While the police can act against civilians whenever they want, in violation of the law of the land, there are certain laws that grant them immense powers to use them arbitrarily. To put it simply, certain powers and laws encourage the police to unleash terror on citizens with impunity.
For example, Section 54 of the Criminal Procedure Code (Cr PC) empowers the police to arrest a person without an order or warrant, on mere suspicion. As per law, such powers can be exercised only in cases where a police officer is in possession of some evidence indicating the involvement of a person in situations mentioned in Section 54(1) of Cr. PC. But in most of the cases, it is noticed that the police officer arrested a person without collecting any material connecting with commission of the offences.
A police officer tells TNS on conditions of anonymity that the laws are violated mainly for the reason that the seniors who are supposed to take disciplinary actions themselves encourage such acts.
He says that the inclusion of a couple of words or changing of a situation slightly can make a non-cognisable offence into a cognisable one. The root of the problem is the excessive use of police by those in power to target their opponents.
He says there is a big difference between a peaceful assembly and one that is not. A police officer has the power to declare the assemblers as trouble makers and book them under anti-terrorism laws. All he has to do is to mention in the FIR that the assemblers were chanting anti-state slogans and inciting each other to destroy public property.
Hafiz Zahid, an agriculturist from Mian Chanu, tells TNS that many a time the police officials collude with criminals to commit a crime. He says it has happened many a time that they arrest people for involvement in some minor crimes like cattle theft and send them to the lockup. In fact, these people are most of the time planners of bigger crimes like murders, abductions and gang rapess. When the aggrieved nominates them in criminal cases they get relief from courts on the grounds that they were in the lock-up at the time of the committal of the said crimes, Zahid adds. This excuse is called 'plea of alibi' in legal terms.
The registration of FIR is where the police can play the most and use different clauses of the relevant laws to facilitate themselves, says Intezar Mehdi Advocate, a Lahore-based lawyer. For example, if a person has abducted somebody, the FIR can be filed under both Section 365 and Section 365 A of the Pakistan Penal Code. The punishment under the former is 7 years maximum, whereas under the latter one can even get a death sentence.
Mehdi says it is up to the police officer to decide under which clause he is going to register the case.
He says Section 365 of the PPC pertains to kidnapping or abducting with intent secretly and wrongfully to confine the person: "Whoever kidnaps or abducts any person with intent to cause that person to be secretly and wrongfully confined, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to seven years, and shall also be liable to fine."
Whereas he says Section 365-A of PPC is about kidnapping or abducting for extorting property, valuable security, etc. It says, "Whoever kidnaps or abducts any person for the purpose of extorting from the person kidnapped or abducted, or from any person interested in the person kidnapped or abducted any property, whether movable or immovable, or valuable security, or to compel any person to comply with any other demand, whether in cash or otherwise, for obtaining release of the person kidnapped or abducted, shall be punished with death or imprisonment for life and shall also be liable to forfeiture of property.
This means that by simply mentioning extortion as the purpose of kidnapping a police officer can increase the penalty from a maximum of seven years and fine to death.
The list of laws abused by the police is exhaustive and includes blasphemy, hudood, public obsenity and several other laws. Though these problems exist on a large scare, mere realisation among the police that they are no more subservient to colonial rule but citizens of a sovereign state can improve the situation to a great extent, says Additional IG Punjab Police Fayyaz Ahmed Mir.
Section 54 is a remnant of the British era and must be done away with immediately, he adds.
--Shahzada Irfan Ahmed
Despite claims made by the government officials
regarding the introduction of radical changes in the police investigation
system as well as the thana culture, the reality is otherwise
On Feb 2, 2009, the officials of Kotwali police station, Gujranwala, arrested one Baber Bhatti on the count of gambling as he was on his way to the hospital for a routine medical check-up. He was publicly beaten up by the policemen and then made to ride a donkey around the city. A day after the incident, on Feb 3, the Wazirabad city police (it also falls under the jurisdiction of the Gujranwala district) beat four people in public, using a piece of reinforced leather called 'chhittar'.
The next day, the Mozang police in Lahore resorted to similar kind of violence in two separate incidents. The policemen took five accused of gambling to Bhoondpura Chowk in the form of a procession, during the peak hours, created a commotion to attract a maximum number of people, and forced them down on the road. One of the cops placed his foot on the neck of the accused while the other two held him by his hands and feet and, finally, the fourth (cop) used the good old 'chhittar'. One by one, the cops thrashed all the five accused, after removing their lower garments, and forced them to say aloud, "Mein jua naeen khedaan gaa" (I won't gamble again).
In the second incident, the same policemen tortured another accused, using the same methods, as scores of people stood witness. Some of them couldn't tolerate the sight of so much torture and passed out on the spot.
The high-handedness of police is not a new phenomenon in Pakistan. Although police officials and different governments have occasionally claimed introducing radical changes in the police investigation system as well as the thana culture, the reality is otherwise. A recent police torture data released by the Karachi-based Madadgaar Helpline shows that from January 2008 to June '08, a total of 743 cases of police torture were reported. The provincial break-up of the figure shows that four cases were reported from Balochistan, 29 from NWFP, 406 from Punjab and 304 cases from Sindh. The nature of abuse ranges from 79 cases of murder, 20 of rape, 333 of illegal detention, 256 of physical torture and 55 harassment cases. The graph of police torture/violence on people is on the rise.
"A further analysis reveals that 416 cases occurred at police stations, 252 at workplace, 66 at victims' residences, and 52 at public places, 57 in private jails, 60 in jail and 92 cases were reported at abandoned places," reads the report.
Muhammad Maqbool, DIG, Loralai police, Balochistan, says that the answer to minimal or no police torture cases in Balochistan and NWFP lies in their social structure that is based on a strong tribal system. "The tradition of revenge in tribal culture keeps the police in control," he told TNS.
Punjab Police officials claim using torture as a tool not only to investigate the accused or the criminals but also to curb crimes. "Such public punishments can inspire awe and fear (of the police) among the public. Believe me, 80 percent of crime is controlled this way," said a deputy superintendent of Punjab police requesting anonymity.
He said that if the Station House Officer (SHO) of a certain area gets tough, the people in his area would think twice before they commit a crime. The low ranking police officials who are 'famous' for using the third degree are a favourite with the high officials, he added.
According to him, common torture methods employed by police officials include standing for hours with arms stretched to a side, hanging by the ankles, twisting the genitals, clubbing, not allowing them to use toilets for hours, burning with cigarettes, whacking the soles of the feet, sexual assault, prolonged isolation, electric shock, denial of food or sleep, hanging upside down, forced spreading of the legs with bar fetters and public humiliation. The police official also admitted having private investigation cells where the accused were kept without formal arrest. "If we keep the record of arrests, we will have to produce them before a judicial magistrate within 24 hours of their arrest and seek physical remand. Since there is usually no record of who is taken in and released, nobody from outside the police station can prove any wrongdoing."
Ironically, torture is prohibited in Pakistan's constitution as well as criminal justice system and Sharia laws. According to Article 14 of the Pakistan Constitution, sub article (a), "No person shall be subjected to torture for the purpose of extracting evidences." Article 38 and 39 of the Law of Evidence exhorts that "no confession made to a police officer shall be permissible against a person accused of any offence. No confession made by any person whilst he is in custody of a police officer unless it be made in the immediate presence of a Magistrate shall be proved as against such person."
Under the Qisas and Diyat Ordinances, causing of hurt by any person to extort "any confession or any information which may lead to the detection of any offence or misconduct" is defined as a distinct, punishable offence.
Furthermore, Pakistan is a signatory to the Universal Declaration on Human Rights whose Article 5 states, "No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment."
On the one hand, Pakistani laws bar use of torture against any body, on the other, the human rights organizations rate Pakistan among the most vulnerable countries regarding police torture. The Amnesty International says that every year more than 100 people are killed in Pakistan due to police torture. The HRCP annual report 2007 says that as many as 147 cases of torture in police custody and at least 65 cases of death in police custody were reported.
According to the report, the Lahore High Court has observed that it seemed difficult to save the public from police excesses, irrespective of the new legislation. The most revealing data about police torture was released by Madadgaar Helpline at the end of the year 2008. According to the report, over the past nine years, there have been 9,364 reported cases of police torture. Of the total, 231 cases were reported in 2000, 555 in 2001, 996 in 2002, 838 in 2003, 1,260 in 2004, 1,356 in 2005, 1,662 in 2006, 1723 in 2007 and 743 in the first six months of 2008.
A senior police official of a federal institution formed in order to steer the police reform efforts in the country told TNS on condition of anonymity that in civilized societies torture could not be used as a policy tool to curb or investigate crimes. "Unfortunately, investigation skills of police in Pakistan are pathetic. They are not capable of extracting information by other means."
He declared that the police high officials who resorted to torturous methods were punished duly. However, the data available to TNS regarding 'Punishment awarded to police personnel during 01.01.2008 to 31.12.2008' of Punjab police presents a different picture. According to the data, a total 65 Punjab police officials (two inspectors, three sub-inspectors, 28 assistant sub-inspectors, 10 head constables and 22 constables) were given 'major and minor' disciplinary punishment on the basis of the torture category. The data further reveals that 33 out of these punishments were just of 'censure'. The data clearly shows the seriousness of the police high officials regarding controlling the practice of torture among its ranks.
Tariq Abbas Qureshi, district police officer, Sahiwal district, informs TNS that torture is the only resort since the police have no scientific means of investigation at their disposal. "Most of the investigation officers are not capable of comprehending the medical legal certificate. They are incapable, in most of cases, of taking assistance from the MLS or post-mortem reports. They do not even have the capacity to use fingerprint matching, leave aside DNA test or other forensic methods. So the only resort left is torture."
In our police investigation system, an accused is arrested and then evidence is 'extracted' out of him/her. In the developed countries, on the contrary, there is no concept of formally arresting the accused unless there is sufficient material available against him/her.
Here the police are obliged to recover the stolen property from the criminals. The court refuses to convict the accused unless the stolen property is recovered. This puts immense pressure on the police to recover stolen property within fourteen days (usual period of judicial remand). This is the reason why the police tortures and keeps the accused in custody without formally arresting them to complete the recoveries.
He says that the police are also used by influential people of an area to humiliate their opponents publicly, although the practice has been reduced by the present government.
Zia Ahmed Awan, President, Lawyers for Human Rights and Legal Aid (LHRLA), the body that runs Madagaar Helpline, tells TNS that the police department has always been a symbol of terror. "Gradual increase in violence by the police shows serious negligence of concerned government departments, particularly the law enforcement agencies. Because of the stigma attached, discrimination against victims and the police's non-cooperative attitude, the corrupt officials and culprits continue to remain at large. This is a source of encouragement to criminal minded officials."
He also says that the data provided by Madagaar Helpline consists of just the cases that were reported in the media. "I personally think that 90 percent of such cases are not reported in the media due to different reasons."
The current police system, he says, is obsolete and, as a result, the condition of innocent people and victims has increasingly become pathetic. "The government is not taking any positive steps to improve the system and enforce laws while the civil society and political parties are also not standing up for positive changes or a proper implementation of the Police Ordinance in order to pressurize the incumbent government to bring about the much-awaited change.
"Pakistan is a country where even the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, the apex court, is not spared physical and mental torture (at the hands of the law enforcement agencies), let alone the common people," he laments.
Are policemen taught to behave the way they normally do? That is the million-dollar question
By Shahzada Irfan Ahmed
Many of us would definitely have heard strange and interesting tales about the training provided to the personnel of police force. This may be provided at the time of their recruitment or during the course of their professional career.
Common perception is that the low-ranking police officers have to hear abuses all day long and are taught how to abuse those they investigate or deal with during their service. An unconfirmed report even says that the junior rank employees are given shoe policies and asked to paint each other's face black.
The purpose explained for this exercise, by those who claim this practice exists, is to erase the word 'self-respect' from the dictionary of the recruits. After being subjected to humiliation of this sort they would hardly feel sorry for any one subjected to similar treatment.
A sub-inspector in the Punjab Police tells TNS that an instructor taught him ways to torture the accused in such a way that no medical board or court could detect the injury. However, he says, this advice was verbal and not documented or mentioned in any text book given to them for study.
He says he was also advised by many to use abusive language and behave arrogantly inside the police station or wherever he had any contact with the general public. The immediate benefit of adopting this attitude, as told to him by his advisors, is that the number of complainants visiting the police station and the number of criminal cases registered there subsequently remains low. "If you start accommodating people and treating them as VIPs, the whole city will start frequenting the place and the number of registered cases will start to skyrocket."
However, the high-ups in the police department are not ready to accept the existence of such practices in the trainings provided by the police department. Additional Inspector General (Training), Punjab Police, Fayyaz Ahmed Mir, tells TNS that even though he has been hearing such things from his early days in service there is no truth in them.
He says the real problem is that many illiterate people were recruited in the past without fulfilling the requirements. "We have observed that the literacy level of a trainee is directly proportional to his level of retention and the effectiveness of the training programme. I mean, a learned and competent official selected on merit can benefit much more than an illiterate person recruited on MPA or MNA quota."
Fayyaz says he is hopeful that things will now improve fast, adding that it is for the first time that the provincial government has abolished such quotas.
He says the department has recently dismissed around 200 policemen whose height was less than required.
Fayyaz says the training programmes in Punjab and other provinces are now focusing on bringing attitudinal change among policemen and make them conscious of self respect. He says it is for the first time in the history of the police department that the oath taken by the recruits binds them to "protect the life, property, honour and self-respect of the people".
The Additional IG thinks it's the pressing work environment that makes policemen short-tempered. "When you don't go home for days and have to work for 16 or more hours in a day, you tend to lose your patience."
Though this cannot be accepted as an excuse for maltreating citizens, he says, reducing workload may help improve the situation. To support his claim, he says the attitude of motorway police, highway patrolling post staff and traffic wardens is much better than the policemen employed in watch and ward and investigation wings of the police department. "They are content with the salaries and the load of work on them - something that reflects directly in their performance and behaviour towards people."
The holding of two conferences by Punjab Police last year, with the collaboration of International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) on how to deal with detainees and criminals, is what Fayyaz mentions as another step in the right direction.
Fasihuddin, an SSP in NWFP Police, tells TNS that unfortunately the police reforms have been made at a legal, administrative and structural level, and not at the functional level of capacity-building or human resource management. There is a need to revamp the whole training process for police officials to make them public servants in real terms and save them from the imprints of the police envisaged during colonial times.
Fasihuddin cites the findings of a survey of 60 police officers conducted by him and says that though most of them (22 per cent) termed terrorism the biggest challenge to the current police, 14.44 per cent said the biggest challenge was the lack of adequate training facilities for police force. This no doubt calls for a special emphasis on improving the quality of training offered to police.
Common citizens are often witness to the high-handedness of police. Some of them share their experiences... Because everyone feared for their life
There is something about injustice that man by nature abhors, so when we hear of an anecdote about cruelty, it arouses hatred in us for its perpetrators. There are incidents that we never forget, irrespective of whether we were witness to it, knew those affected or did not know the affected persons at all.
The first incident I'd never forget is the killing of 23-year-old Haroon, son of Sadiq Mirza of Samanabad, back in August 1986. The police tortured him to death. The boy lived in my cousins' neighbourhood in New Samanabad. Haroon and his brother were my cousins' friends and I had often met them at their place. Somebody implicated him in a property dispute and got him picked by the police, at whose hands he lost his life. This is what we all knew and this was the story published in the daily Jang. It was then that the young people I knew inferred that police had not been the protector of the people but a tyrant.
Recently, I came across two policemen of Elite Force beating a lean boy, aged 20, at Barkat Market Chowk in front of banquet hall. This was on Jan 28, 2009. Time: around 11 am. One of them, a bearded man double the boy's size, was hitting the boy's chest with his elbow severely. At one point it seemed the boy would stop breathing. People watching the scene feared the policemen would kill him. Then they shoved him into their van but took him out soon, made him sit on a motorbike between two cops. The party left. Another cop got on to a bicycle and rode off. I found out that the boy's crime was bicycle theft. Do the police have the right to beat a person madly if they find someone guilty? I am sure a good part of the population has been witness to one horror scene or the other.
Only this month my former maid, Irshad, daughter of Farzand, was accused of stealing gold worth Rs 2 lakh. I, like all the people who know her, can say for sure that the girl was falsely accused because I have known her for nine years. The area people were all with her. They all gathered at the Dera of the Numberdar twice where the complainant party was also called but never turned up. Instead, the complainant asked the accused to come over to Allama Iqbal Town police station on the evening of February 3 to settle the case where the police nabbed her forcibly and kept her in the police station for over 36 hours.
Her husband was also there with her. Under what law did the police keep her in the police station? It may appear to many to be a regular procedure, but is it the right procedure?
I have been living near Chowk Yateem Khana for over 15 years and I have come across much cruelty -- blatant violations of human rights, the worst by the police itself. Here is what happened on Multan Road on the unfortunate day of March 11, 2007. People had just come out of the mosque after Juma prayers when two cars came racing one after the other. The car in the front had one person inside, while the car at the back carried policemen in civilian clothes. There were men in police uniform as well. At the Chowk, they fired at the man in the car before them. The man died at the very instance. It's a market place, so there was no dearth of witnesses. But nobody dared to go after the police because everyone feared for their lives.
-- Saadia SalahuddinA visit to a police station is the last thing one can ever desire. Dirty rooms, filthy lockups and toilets, foul-mouthed police officers - deeming everybody as a suspect - and the sight of paraphernalia used for torturing inmates are things that welcome an individual who dares to visit this most-dreaded space.
One may have read about scores of what goes on there but only a first-hand experience can reveal how fearlessly the police maltreats the citizens of this state. I can still recall the bad memories of the day when I visited a friend of mine in a police station in Jhelum district. My friend was previously an employee of the Punjab Education Department and had recently been inducted as an inspector in the police department.
I had barely settled down when I heard screams of a frail person being dragged to the courtyard inside the compound of the police station. As my host had not turned up, I rushed out of the room to see what was going on. It was such a terrifying sight that I went weak in my knees and my heart rate increased incredibly. About half a dozen strong-built policemen were beating a middle-aged man with whatever they could get their hands on.
Finally, the poor man was thrown in the middle of the compound as if he was a heap of garbage. What's more, he was made to lie on his belly on the ground. Without wasting any time, two policemen stepped on his legs while two others stood over his head, clutching at his hands and making it impossible for him to move.
As soon as the stage was set, another policemen emerged out of nowhere, with a leather truncheon in his hand and handed it over to the strongest policeman around. Completely ignoring the fact that there were people present there to witness this gory spectacle, the policemen pulled down the shalwar of the person and the one with the truncheon in hand starting beating him with the 'device' with full force.
I rushed back to the room where my friend was waiting for me. I asked him why he had not come outside and stopped his subordinates from beating up the person. He replied that it was a routine matter and that there was no need for me to take it seriously.
I was shocked to listen to my friend - who I had always found to be a very sensitive soul - say all this.
Even more shocking was his revelation that the man who had been beaten was actually guilty of attempting to commit suicide.
"Sir, this person wanted to end his life. The pain we inflicted on him should serve to discourage him from making a similar attempt in future," said a constable, with an unwanted smile on his face.
I wanted to leave the place immediately but had to stick around for a while to finish my cup of tea. On my way back, I was thinking if this dejected person had been in any other civilised country, he'd be provided services of a psychiatrist. But, in this case, the police had made sure his living conditions should become even worse.
-- S. Irfan Ahmed
It could've been me!
I used to work at our own Public Call Office (PCO). It was a hot spot for a variety of people – basically callers. I remember a person once telling me that if somebody came here to make a long-distance call to India, I should always listen in on his conversation. It was for my own good, he said.
One fine day, I was sitting in the PCO, waiting for customers, when I saw a fast-speed police jeep screech to a halt right in front of the booth. A horde of policemen alighted from the vehicle. Obviously worried, I asked the police constable what the problem was. He didn't say much, except that he needed to make a call.
The next I knew, he went to another telephone booth close to my PCO. A few minutes later, I heard a noise. The policemen were beating up the booth owner. They packed him into the jeep and scooted off. It transpired that some unidentified person had called up a senior police officer from the PCO and screamed abuses at him.
Seeing the policemen hit the poor PCO man made me shudder in horror. For all you know, it could have been me! Horror, horror!
-- Naseem ur Rehman