Policing promises

 
September 13,2019

One of the main campaign slogans of the PTI had been to reform the police and put in place a civilized, organized body able to maintain law and order, particularly in Punjab. This has not happened;...

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One of the main campaign slogans of the PTI had been to reform the police and put in place a civilized, organized body able to maintain law and order, particularly in Punjab. This has not happened; certainly not in the province. Over the last two weeks or so there have been at least five cases of brutal torture some of which had resulted in terrible deaths for the victims. The ‘thana’ culture has been not changed at all. These cases have drawn the attention of the public to police brutalities once again. One of them shows police in civilian clothes dragging an individual, Amir Masih, in front of a hospital. The marks on his body are visible. The case of the unfortunately mentally challenged man Salahuddin Ayubi who attempted to rob an ATM and was captured on film and later tortured to death by the Rahim Yar Khan police has also made headlines. Despite the fact that Ayubi’s family had tattooed his name and contact number on his wrist in case of emergency, no attempt was made to get in touch with them.

Currently, according to lawyers sufficient legislation is in place, partly stemming from the Police Order of 2002 which governs the working of the force in Punjab to prevent open brutality and then clumsy measures to cover it up. Political parties have also put other laws on table in parliament to deal with police brutalities but these failed to pass because of a divided National Assembly. The National Human Rights Commission has unfortunately not been very effective since its inception and those who enforce the law appear to have impunity from what it lays down.

Some efforts have been made in Punjab to set up a committee of citizens to monitor police working. But it is not certain if such a body will be very effective. The situation however is desperate. One of the problems is that beyond torture police have no training in interrogating suspects and extracting information from them. It is also true that in almost every case the blame has been put on low-ranking policemen rather than senior officials who should be watching over them. The need for drastic response remains as strong as ever before. The police in Punjab have been accused of brutality before. This continues today. Somehow change has to be introduced but there are as yet no signs that the government of the province is committed to this and is willing to begin clearing up what is indeed a massive problem.


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