Not the mandate of the police

January 10, 2021

The brutal, unprovoked killing of Osama Satti by the Anti-Terrorist Squad highlights the impunity that enables abuse of power. Extra-judicial killings are illegal, and a serious breach of constitutional rights of the citizen

The ruthless killing of a boy, Osama Satti, by the Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) of the police on a main highway in the capital city of Islamabad is the latest incident pointing to abuse of authority by this prominent law enforcement agency amid weak accountability.

Satti, a student in early 20s, according to family, went to drop a friend late Friday night (January 2) and was shot dead by ATS personnel. A patrolling squad of the ATS tried to stop his car, allegedly with tinted windows, not allowed in the city but that exist by default in many Japanese cars, at G-10 signal on Kashmir Highway but he did not stop. After the incident, the police spokesperson stated that the patrolling squad had tried to stop his vehicle considering it suspicious for its tinted windows. He claims that when the ATS personnel opened fire, they were aiming “at the tyres of the vehicle”; and unfortunately, the bullets hit the driver multiple times and resulted in his death.

Twenty-two is the number of bullets that directly hit the vehicle from various sides, mainly the front. Dr Waseem Khwaja, spokesperson of Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) says that six of them hit the victim in the face, chest, neck and head. Under pressure from his family and civil society, police arrested five ATS squad members that it says were involved in the case and produced them the next day before an Anti-Terrorism Court where the investigation officer admitted that the youth was hit with bullets from front and back.

“It is a clear case of abuse of power by law enforcement agency squad. This needs to be dealt with according to law and by opening the window for true accountability of this force,” Shaukat Javed, a former police chief of the Punjab who has been in several committees making police reforms, tells The News on Sunday (TNS).

He says if this was such a serious case and the car was to be stopped, the police should have fired at its tyre, and that too “only once, to stop the vehicle”.

Such direct firing is totally unacceptable, he adds.

“This happens because of lack of training; and non-implementation of Police Order 2002 that holds police accountable, that provides a Police Complaints Authority and a Public Safety Commission and ensures strict accountability.

He says the Law and Justice Commission has also recommended such police reforms and the Supreme Court of Pakistan has duly approved them last year in February but there is no implementation yet.

Shaukat Javed, former police chief of the Punjab, says if this was such a serious case and the car was to be stopped, they should have fired at the tyres, and that too “only once, to stop the vehicle”.

Father of the killed youth, whilst talking to media, has alleged that his son was murdered. He says he had had a minor quarrel with a police official a day ago and the official had threatened him of consequences.

Abuse of power by the police force is frequently reported in the media. There have been several cases of such abuse and unprofessionalism while interrogating accused, stopping people at check posts and pickets and while investigating the complaints. In several cases, the investigators have been found to be colluding with the police officials facing legal trials.

In the latest case, the ATC judge, also accused the investigation officer of colluding with the suspects and hiding facts and evidence. A few days ago, according to media reports, Islamabad police command dismissed a middle-rank police official from service “after he failed to satisfy his seniors about his act of firing a warning shot on the ground when a man resisted body search”.

In many cases reported in the media, police also violate guaranteed fundamental constitutional rights of the citizens and the accused persons by violating their dignity and honor.

“The extra-judicial killing in Islamabad once again highlights the need for urgent and complete reform of the police. The impunity and the lack of accountability encourage and enable this violence. Pakistan needs an accountable, modern and independent police force which respects the human rights and dignity of citizens,” says Saroop Ijaz, a lawyer and Senior Counsel for Asia for Human Rights Watch (HRW) states.

“The violence of the police is a result of lack of accountability, political interference and absence of modern tools to investigate. The self-accountability mechanism of the police has failed. It needs a system of external accountability,” he adds.

A couple of days after Osama Satti’s brutal killing, as mentioned earlier, a citizen narrowly escaped police after he refused body-search at a check point in Islamabad. The high-ups dismissed the official after the video went viral on the social media. Separately, in Karachi, ATS at a check-post killed a young man in what is being alleged as a fake encounter.The victim was from Hunza and had worked at a garments shop after his graduation.The family of the victim claims that the boy was not guilty of any crime. Ultimately, it is the courts and not the police who have the mandate to decide.

The author is a staff reporter. He can be reached [email protected]

Not the mandate of the police: Osama Satti's Killing highlights impunity that enables abuse of power