The police brutality

We all saw the disturbing scenes of police brutality in Lahore Model Town incident a week ago, where Punjab police mercilessly baton charged, even at apparently helpless protesters. There were some reports of point-blank shooting at protesters that resulted in 14 deaths and around 80 injured.

Though I don’t really buy the stance of Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT), but in a democratic setup, people have the right to protest for whatever they deem their cause is. The use of violence of this sort from any law enforcement agency is unacceptable. This is a gross violation of civilian rights.

Police personnel are public servants. They are supposed to serve the common man and protect their civilian rights. Police in Pakistan, however, seems to go the other way around. A common man is the one who suffers the most in their hands. They are known to be the most corrupt, inefficient, and a highly politicised institution in Pakistan.  If any injustice is being done to a common man, it’s nearly impossible to report it without a bribe, provided one is not putting fingers at some power group or anyone influential. Also, common men are often the ones, who are the first ones to be abused, tortured, looted, accused or even punished without trials, often in baseless cases, to succumb to vested interests of influential people. And our police not only facilitate these injustices, in some cases they are the perpetrators.

Punjab police is the worst. Terrible incidences of rapes, mob attacks and police tortures are surfacing in Punjab particularly, in the recent years. In most of these cases, police has either being mum, or have been facilitating these injustices.

This facet of police is not specific to Pakistan only and can be seen widely in the entire sub-continent. The roots of which can be traced back to colonial times. Back then, British established such police norms as their tool to control the multicultural Indians - who were always at row, either with their foreign occupants or among themselves, on the basis of ethnicity, castes or religion. Maintaining law and order of course was their only concern, instead of protecting civil rights of common Indians. But shamefully, even after independence, our bureaucratic set up is still sticking to colonial system.  The British lords are only replaced with local feudal lords. 

Anatol Lieven quotes in ‘Pakistan, A Hard Country:'

‘In 2009 I was sitting in the office of the inspector-general of police in one of Pakistan’s provinces, when a call came through from the province’s Chief Minister –who was roaring so loudly that I could hear him through the receiver from several feet away. He was complaining that a superintendent of police had arrested a bandit leader at the rural mansion of his parties’ provincial deputies. The unfortunate inspector had to promise an inquiry, the dacoit’s immediate release and the immediate transfer of the offending police officer to another province. And this Chief Minister, by the way, has a personal reputation for efficiency, hard work and relative honesty. A senior officer in Punjab told me that around half of the 648 station house officers in the province are chosen by local politician through influence on the Punjab government, to serve their local interests.'

66 years ago, Muhammad Ali Jinnah had rightly envisages this problem that’s crippling Pakistan’s society to date, and its future consequences. Only if we could heed Jinnah, he truly was a visionary leader.  He said in his famous speech to civil officers in Peshawar in April 1948:

‘You should never be influenced by any political pressure, by any political party or any individual politician. Start with that determination and enthusiasm – and I hope the other side will also realize what a terrible evil they are raising up and how it demoralizes the services to try and influence this department or that departments, this office or that officer-and if you stick to your determination you will have done a great service to your nation. Putting pressure on service people is, I know, a very common fault of politicians and those with influence in political parties, but I hope you will now, from today, resolve and determine to act according to the humble advice I am giving you.’

0023 hours
Friday 1 August

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