LAHORE: Although uncountable cases related to extrajudicial killings and high handedness of the Pakistani police have been reported in media since the country's inception, exclusive research conducted by the "Jang Group and Geo Television Network" reveals that the first major incident that caught public attention in this context was the death of Hassan Nasir, the Secretary General of the banned Communist Party of Pakistan, during interrogation in 1960 at the Lahore Fort.
The Lahore Fort, as annals of history tell us, was also used as a detention centre during the rule of the British Empire in India.
The Hyderabad Deccan-born Hassan Nasir (1928-1960), a Cambridge University graduate, was a maternal grandson of Nawab Mohsin ul Mulq.
The Nawab was one of the founders of the All India Muslim League in 1906, a close friend of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan and a key participant of the "Aligarh Movement," which was the push to establish a modern system of education for the Muslims of undivided India during the 19th Century.
Renowned author Tariq Ali's 2005 book "Street fighting years: An autobiography of the Sixties," another book "Pakistan, Zia and after" by Anthony Hyman, Muhammed Ghayur and Naresh Kaushik, Communist leader Major Ishaq Muhammad's book "book Hassan Nasir Ki Shahadat" and columnist Kamran Asdar Ali's 2014 article "A century of war, 1914-2014: Pakistan and the Cold War" appearing in the :"Dawn" newspaper reveal that in 1954, Hassan was arrested by the government of Pakistan, imprisoned, tortured and then forcibly flown back to India, but in 1955, he again returned to Pakistan and became a full-fledged political activist as well as the office secretary of the banned National Awami Party (NAP), which was later revived and renamed as the Awami National Party (ANP).
He was arrested from Karachi in 1960, put in a cell in the Lahore Fort and brutally tortured till he died
The above-cited references and sources mentioned that after Hassan's murder, his mutilated body was hastily buried by the Lahore police.
There was such an outcry over his death that the-then Pakistani President Ayub Khan's government had to exhume his body to try to prove the prosecution point that he had committed suicide, and was not killed.
On December 4, 1960, Hassan Nasir's mother, Zahra Alamdar Hussein, had arrived in Lahore from Hyderabad Deccan to witness the exhumation of her son's body in the Miani Sahib Graveyard.
The exhumation was carried out on December 12, 1960, but the body had suffered an advanced stage of decomposition and thus not identifiable.
Hassan's mother had later issued a statement at the Lahore High Court that she did not think the body was that of her son and refused to take the possession. The Anarkali Police later reburied the body into an unknown grave.
It is pertinent to note that renowned lawyer Mian Mahmud Ali Kasuri, father of former Pakistani Foreign Minister Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri, had then filed a habeas corpus appeal on behalf of another communist leader, Major Ishaq, in the Lahore High Court to ascertain the detained Nasir's condition.
Accepting the appeal on November 22, 1960, the Lahore High Court had reportedly passed a judgment asking the state to produce the detained prisoner in court.
In response to the court orders, the government filed an affidavit through the Assistant Deputy Inspector General of the Crime Investigation Department (CID) on November 24, 1960, which stated that Hassan Nasir was bought to Lahore on September 13, 1960 after his arrest in Karachi on August 6 under the Security Act of Pakistan.
The affidavit affirmed that this was done at the behest of the CID so that the Intelligence Bureau could interrogate Hassan Nasir in Lahore.
The interrogation ended on October 29, 1960 and a message was sent to CID's Superintendent of Police in Karachi that the prisoner could be transferred back.
This message was repeated on November 5, 1960.
On November 13, 1960, the Assistant Deputy Inspector General received a call from the line officer at the Lahore Fort that Hassan Nasir was found hanging in his cell and that all efforts to revive him had failed.
The death in custody had not been publicly acknowledged until the filing of this above-mentioned petition.
What to talk of the stories of police tortures in 1960's, the pattern had continued till 1999, when a debate on carrying out reforms in this law enforcement agency had first flashed headlines in local newspapers.
And the government functionaries, as usual, were seen protecting the police. The practice continues till date.
For example, this is what Raja Basharat, Punjab's current Law Minister and a member of Premier Imran Khan's coalition partners PML-Q, had told the "BBC News" in July 1999 when he was also holding the same portfolio during Shahbaz Sharif's 1997 to 1999 government in the province: "I agree with you that the police have been carrying out extra-judicial killings, but the number is so small that I think with the passage of time and with the emphasis of the government in discouraging it and the way the government is taking action against police officials, this number will diminish."
In its July 27, 1997 report, the "BBC News" had stated that more than 850 suspected criminals had been killed by the police in Punjab province alone between March 1997 and July 1999.
The esteemed British media house had maintained: "The killings are reported in the local press as "police encounters" and generally take place late at night in deserted areas where there are unlikely to be any eye-witnesses. In many cases the alleged criminals are already under police custody and the explanation given by the police for these bloody "shoot-outs" is frequently the same. The police say the suspects were being transported to the "scene of the crime" to recover illegal weapons or identify hide-outs. On the way, the police allege that the convoy is attacked by accomplices of the arrested men in an attempt to rescue them and in the resulting shoot-out, all the men in custody are "killed in cross-fire."
The story was the same in 2015.
In September 2016, another British media outlet "The Guardian" had reported: "In reality many are killed in police custody, according to a report by Human Rights Watch. The group said it was concerned that many, "if not most", of the 2,108 people reported by the media to have been killed in encounters in 2015 died in circumstances that were "faked and did not occur in situations in which lives were at risk."
Brad Adams, Asia director at the "Human Rights Watch," had said: "Law enforcement has been left to a police force filled with disgruntled, corrupt and tired officers. Police should have the resources, training, equipment, and encouragement to act professionally instead of leaving Pakistanis to rely on favours and bribes to seek justice."
In December, numerous Pakistani newspapers had written: "The Punjab province has witnessed a sizeable decrease in the incidents of fake police encounters or extra-judicial killings during the current year as compared to the previous. At least 226 alleged criminals were killed in 203 "police encounters" during the first 10 months of this year across the Punjab province. Last year, the police had killed 292 alleged criminals in 245 armed encounters during the same period. This year's decrease in police shootings is being attributed to the bifurcation of data between alleged criminals and terrorists. Since most of the terrorists are killed by the counterterrorism department in Punjab, the police are given freehand to decide the fate of hardened criminals."
The local newspapers had further held: "The police had killed 360 alleged criminals in a total of 397 encounters reported across the province in 2012. However, in 2011, at least 127 alleged criminals had been killed during the shootouts with the law enforcing agency."
In February 2018, a Hong Kong-based English-language news website "Asia Times" had stated: "According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), more than 2,000 people were killed in fake encounters in 2015. The HRCP statistics further confirm that 1,226 people were killed in 784 police encounters in 2016 and 2017 combined.
And quite recently, on January 20, 2019, the "News International" had revealed: "The brutal killing of four citizens in Sahiwal has once again proven the culture of police encounter continues under the new Punjab administration despite claims of reforms in police. According to Human Rights Commission of Pakistan data, as many as 3,345 people have been killed in police encounters from January 2014 to May 2018. The data further shows that 23 women and 12 minors have also been killed in these police encounters whereas 55 police officials have also been killed in these encounters.
The country's most read newspaper had gone on to state: "The HRCP data reveals that total 2,117 police encounters have been reported in the Pakistan media from January 01, 2014 to May 11, 2018. As per the data, 6,610 male and 23 female and 12 minor victims were encountered by the police during this period out of which 3,345 people were killed. During these encounters, 173 accused were injured, 516 arrested and 2,602 accused escaped. Similarly, 10 passersby were killed and 53 were injured in these encounters. The data further shows that 1,914 people of the total encounter victims had criminal record, including 818 were involved in dacoities, 66 in kidnapping, 233 in murder, 258 in robbery, 13 in smuggling and 32 in rape cases. Similarly, 206 people were facing the charges of militancy, and 27 were facing the charges of extortion."