PESHAWAR: The provincial capital has literally turned into a city of barricades and checkpoints and apart from the police a number of other forces in different uniforms stop cars and check people.
On a number of occasions, the personnel of various departments have clashed with one another over the issue of jurisdiction. Recently, the Excise and Taxation Department officials clashed with the officials of the National Highways and Motorway Police on the Peshawar-Islamabad Motorway over the issue of chasing a suspicious car. Both the departments are now defending their stance. The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Police had also taken up recently the issue of different forces being given the powers to search vehicles and frisk people.
“Last year, the deputy inspector general of police (headquarters) had written to the government to take up the issue of use of police-like uniforms by other forces. The Central Police Office even complained that the ranks and badges these personnel wear are similar to that of the KP Police,” a source told The News. The source said that a number of cases of clashes between the police and other forces on the issue of jurisdiction and working practices were also reported to the government in the past months.
The worst sufferers are the public who have to deal with different kinds of forces that have been given the power to stop every car on the city roads, highways and the Motorway.
“While driving in the provincial capital, vehicles of different departments can stop you, check your car and even frisk you on the basis of the so-called tip-off. The people were already irked by dozens of checkpoints where cops suspected every vehicle and passers-by. Now there are more uniformed parties stationed at different places to check people and vehicles,” an official said.He added that there are also private men hired by the officers even though they neither have any authority nor training on how to deal with a respectable citizen. “In any developed country, you will hardly see any uniformed personnel on the road for miles. One doesn’t feel easy to be in a city with so many uniformed men who can stop you anywhere. They are so arrogant that they will take anyone to their office or police station in case there is an argument,” said the official.
The situation near the Peshawar Toll Plaza of the Motorway is more serious as personnel of several departments can be seen there stopping and checking vehicles on different pretexts. Countless barriers are placed on the Motorway to break the traffic flow. Long rows of vehicles are a common sight there.
KP Chief Minister Mahmood Khan had suspended the entire patrolling party of the Excise Department near the Motorway Toll Plaza after public complaints in December last year. Further action was taken by the bosses of the respective departments but the practice has continued near the Motorway Toll Plaza, Ring Road, University Road, GT Road, Kohat Road, Bara Road and other parts of Peshawar.
“I was stopped at one such checkposts while going to my village. I let the constable check the vehicle, its boot and every cavity. Then he started checking the doors if I had placed any kind of drugs inside it,” a senior official, requesting anonymity, told The News. The official said the constable was neither authorised nor trained to check any vehicle. “There must be a senior official to check vehicles, and that too if there is any specific information about a car or a person. Neither the police nor any other force should insult the public by stopping every car to check it and frisk the passengers,” the official said.
Many criticise the increasing number of forces and patrolling parties, saying the smuggling of drugs, non-custom paid vehicles and other contrabands never stopped.
“Instead of focusing on the real issues of completely stopping the flow of drugs, non-custom paid cars and other smuggled items, these officials focus on their own vested interest. This is the reason they are still struggling to check crimes despite increased manpower. This is harassing the general public only,” said the official.
The official added that one can even see a large number of private companies’ guards wearing police-like uniform brandishing automatic rifles and harassing passers-by on the main Saddar Road and other trade centres.
The spokesman for the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Police, Shahzada Kokab Farooq, was approached by The News to seek his comments whether action has been taken regarding the use of police-like uniform and jurisdiction of different forces but he declined.
The media cell of the KP Police has become media shy in recent weeks as the officials even avoid commenting on police-related issues.