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November 28, 2019

Hoodbhoy tragedy pushes approval of SOP for police blockade, snap checking


November 28, 2019

Following the November 22 incident in which police officials killed Nabeel Hoodbhoy and injured his friend Raza Imam, a standard operating procedure (SOP) has been approved for blockade and snap checking issued in the light of the Amal Umar case.

The decision was taken during a meeting of the Provincial Public Safety & Police Complaints Commission that Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah chaired at the CM Secretariat on Wednesday.

The meeting expressed grief and anger over last week’s tragedy. It also reviewed the SOP or rules of engagement related to the use of force as practised by the Sindh police as well as implementation on the orders of the Supreme Court in the Amal Umar case.

Briefing the commission on this past Friday’s incident, Karachi police chief Ghulam Nabi Memon said Hoodbhoy and Imam were travelling in a car, and they were asked to stop at Khayaban-e-Hafiz but they sped away so the police gave chase.

Memon said the law enforcers fired shots at them near the Pakistan American Cultural Centre (PACC), resulting in wounds to both men, of whom Hoodbhoy succumbed to his injuries on the spot.

The police chief claimed that Head Constable Aftab had fired five rounds from his pistol, saying that four of them were aerial and one was a straight shot, which resulted in the death of Hoodbhoy.

He said the incident took place at the PACC, which fell under the jurisdiction of the Civil Lines police. FIR No. 149/2019 was registered against the police party comprising Sub-Inspector Ghaffar of the Gizri police, HC Aftab and Police Constable Mohammad Ali, and they were taken into custody, he added.

Memon said investigation into the incident under the South Investigation SSP had been ordered. The other members of the investigation team include South SSP Shiraz, DSP Akhtar and Inspector Ghulam Ali, he added.

He said that another inquiry into the incident under Saddar SP Amjad Hayat had also been initiated. The commission was told that an SOP for police stop & search had already been issued.

An aggressive campaign for weapon handling and refresher courses for firing was started after the Amal Umar tragedy. Around 6,000 police officers have been trained so far, while 7,000 official pistols were issued to police officials in the city and new purchase of 4,500 pistols was under process.

A separate module was being prepared to train the police how to exercise their right of self-defence. The commission’s members urged the Sindh police chief to transfer all the officials, including constables, head constables and head clerks, if they were working at a police station for many years.

The meeting also urged the police to change the mindset of the officials working at police stations because the people must feel safe and secure in the presence of law enforcers instead of feeling threatened or insecure.

“After the successful Karachi operation, the confidence of the city’s people in the police was restored, and now it is the responsibility of the police to maintain it through their behaviour and actions,” said the chief executive.

The Karachi police chief brushed aside the impression of sending policemen on a “visa” — which means officials draw salaries without performing their duties — and said the city police has the strength of 34,000 but there are 7,700 vacancies. He added that the number of officials at police stations is 18,670, while 2,095 are in police offices.

The meeting expressed reservations on the refusal of the Ziauddin Hospital for providing medical treatment to the man injured in the November 22 incident, and directed the home secretary to issue a circular to all public and private hospitals to treat those injured in police cases, otherwise action would be taken against them.

The CM approved the SOP for blockades and snap checking as was formulated in the light of the Amal Umar case. The objectives of the SOP are to ensure that police officials on blockade or snap checking duties are properly trained and briefed, and they perform their duties professionally under these guidelines.

The use of lethal force should remain limited and only as a last resort, and the police officials deployed for such duties should demonstrate maximum restraint in such situations as well as during conducting raids.

The SOP adopted for the purpose will make sure that the officials deployed for such duties are trained to demonstrate decency, courtesy and patience during their duty hours. The guidelines will also make sure that no police official acts in violation of these written directions and procedures.

The meeting was also attended by CM’s law adviser Barrister Murtaza Wahab, MPAs Sharjeel Memon, Imdad Pitafi, Hasnain Mirza, Shamim Mumtaz, Mohammad Ali Aziz and Shahnaz Begum, Home Secretary Usman Chachar, Finance Secretary Hassan Naqvi, and commission members Karamat Ali, Haji Nazim, Barrister Haya Imam, Rubina Brohi, Advocate Jhamat Mal and Qurban Malano.