Overworked, understaffed and with limited resources, police in Karachi functions like any other in the country
"Stop, prove your identity," was written on the left wall as I approached the main gate of the Gulshan-e-Iqbal Police Station of Karachi. But there was no sentry at the entrance to check my identity.
As I entered the station, a policeman came to me and asked about the purpose of my visit. I introduced myself and told him I wanted to meet a duty officer. He pointed towards the reporting room where two police officers were busy writing some complaints.
I tried to strike a conversation with the duty officer, Sub-Inspector Abdul Haleem, but he seemed more interested in lamenting, "Most people visit us to register a report of their missing or lost documents. They come with incomplete information and that is why they have to visit the police station twice or thrice".
Haleem has been serving Sindh Police since 1985. He was posted at the Gulshan-e-Iqbal thana nine months back.
Traffic Section Officer Mohammad Ali along with his assistant section officer (ASO) entered the reporting room. They lodged a complaint under section 279 of Pakistan Penal Code, confiscated a bus and arrested its driver. "Traffic police don’t have lockups and FIR books, so we come here for such matters," says Ali.
A little later, I met head muharrar ASI Aslam Bhatti. In his 30 years with police, he has served at 18 different police stations of the city. He told me that the Gulshan-e-Iqbal police station has three mobile vehicles with two fuel cards. Each card allows seven liters of fuel a day.
He said the sanctioned workforce of his police station was 293 but he is working with only 76. Obviously, the station is grossly understaffed.
This is not unique to the Gulshan-e-Iqbal thana. According to the Accountant General of Sindh, the total strength of the Karachi police is 32,749. There are 111 police stations and police posts in Karachi and its approved strength is 12,618. But only 8,746 policemen are posted at police stations, which is also the actual operational force of the department. Roughly, one policeman guards 2,286 persons in Karachi, a city facing the menace of terrorism, target killing, kidnapping for ransom, and street crimes.
Every police station has a reporting room, wireless room, staff room and head muharrar room. There are very few stations that are not authorised to have a lockup. The Station House Officer (SHO) room is the most important part of the station. He is considered the king of the area, having firsthand knowledge of all devils operating in his jurisdiction. Every SHO has a side room, which basically serves the purpose of a rest room.
Also read: What makes a thana?
One of the police sources said that a police station is a basic unit of policing. The high-ups of the department do not normally visit police stations, and if they ever do, the staff is not allowed to speak in front of them.
Research shows that police stations do not get stationery or building and vehicles maintenance fund. To meet these and other running expenses, officers have to ask for chai pani (bribe).
There is a perception that the division of operation and investigation branch further fuelled corruption in the department. "Initially, complainant had to offer bribe once but now he has to do it twice; first for registering a case and second time to the investigating officer," reveals a police officer.
There is a strong political interference in the posting of police officials, including that of Additional Inspector General, Deputy Inspector General, SSP and SHO. The matter was discussed in the Supreme Court during the Karachi law and order case. There are several "doors" in Sindh where you can knock for your desired post.
A former police chief of Karachi divulged to TNS, "except 30, all police stations have a price tag, starting from 0.5 to 0.8 million rupees." "Interested candidates" for SHO-ship use their political and other connections to get the lucrative slot. Low-ranking police officers keep a close eye on head muharrars’ posts but that is also beyond the reach of an ordinary policeman who cannot render the "required services" for the said position.
TNS learned that on March 30, Sindh Rangers stormed a CID Civil Lines and Garden. On an intelligence agency tip-off, Sindh Rangers initially picked up Javed Mehsud, Aman Mehsud and Daud from Sohrab Goth. Those three terrorists kidnapped a man Jumma Gul on March 26 from the same area and demanded ransom of 20 million rupees.
Those three kidnappers were affiliated with TTP’s Karachi Ameer, Khan Zaman Mehsud. On their disclosure about Jumma Gul’s whereabouts, Sindh Rangers raided CID Garden office and recovered the abductee. The CID Garden Sub-Inspector Nadeem was also taken into custody. During interrogation, it was unearthed that CID Garden, which is headed by SSP Usman Bajwa, was involved in kidnapping for ransom and had business ties with TTP.
On March 31, IG Sindh Ghulam Haider Jamali chaired a high-level meeting in Central Police Office, Karachi. All DIGs, SSPs and SPs attended the meeting. During the discussion, it appeared that some police officers were involved in backing drug and gambling dens. A participant of the meeting revealed that a DIG gave a suggestion to compile a list of those involved in patronising criminals. Another DIG suggested that FIRs should be lodged against those officers and they should be arrested. An SP intervened and opposed the suggestion, "We cannot shut down these dens because they provide a huge sum to district police for running day-to-day affairs".
Interestingly, department’s high-ups didn’t give a shut-up call to the officer.
A few months ago, before the Cricket World Cup 2015 match between Pakistan and India, a police team raided a five-star hotel near PIDC. According to details, a dinner was under way which was hosted by a bookie. A DIG and SSP were present at the party when the inspector spoiled the fun. A top level police official brushed the entire issue under the carpet.
So, if the top officials of the police department are indulged in patronising and running criminal dens, what can one expect from the lower staff?