Friday February 23, 2024

Pawns for the state

By Editorial Board
November 03, 2021

It appears that no one, whether opposition or in government, cares about the police personnel who over the years have been placed at the frontlines of the fight against terrorism, with too little to protect them. In the latest standoff between the police and the TLP, five policemen have been killed. Even before they could be properly buried and the rituals completed, the government had reached an accord with an organisation which had been previously proscribed. This outfit was able to use teargas canisters, heavy guns and other equipment against the police force in Punjab. There has been much disappointment and a loss of morale within the Punjab police over all that has happened, not only this time round, but in previous incidents as well. Certainly with such poor equipment, so little instruction on how to handle the protest, the police are certain to be demoralised, and thereby even less able than before to protect citizens, which is their primary duty, while political interference in the posting and transfers further weakens their power as an institution.

While numbers are limited and the research has not been conducted on a large-scale basis in the country, it is believed that within the last seven years, at least 100 policemen, if not more, have lost their lives to terrorists and other militant forces. Others have died at check posts while stopping bombers from entering larger buildings, or at border posts, on highways and in other incidents with police personnel taken hostage in some cases by extremists. If we are to maintain any kind of law and order, we need to protect our primary law-enforcement bodies. It is sad that after the most recent deaths in Lahore, neither the government nor the opposition have spoken of the five men who died, some of them leaving behind young children. Many others have suffered a similar fate before. A demoralised, defeated, police force cannot be expected to go about its duties. The problem is made worse when they are given low quality training and recruitment is haphazard. Even though public opinion of the police may be low because of its perception as a corrupt or incompetent outfit, the fact is that the police are our first line of defence for the citizens of this country. We need to rethink how we police our country and what we can do to empower the police force, and turn it into an outfit which is able to deal with protests in a trained and peaceful manner causing as little injury or loss of life as is possible, but maintaining the order we so badly require. Failing to do so is letting down the force we place at the very front to defend us all.