WEB DESK: The institution of police in Pakistan doesn’t enjoy good reputation, and rightly so. What to talk of ‘thana culture’, which tends to turn the police stations into no-go areas for the ordinary people, there is ample evidence to suggest that it frequently resorts to extrajudicial killings and murderous torture, says Human Rights Watch (HRW) report.
According to the report ‘This Crooked System: Police Abuse and Reform in Pakistan,’ in 2015 alone over 2,000 people were killed in “encounters” with police, mostly in Punjab. Most of these encounters are believed to be fake as these had not taken place in situations in which lives were claimed to be at risk. Should police find that evidence against a culprit is in short supply or the witnesses are too scared to testify the accused is disposed of in a fake encounter.
Then there are custodial deaths that take place during interrogation. And barring a very few exceptions the victims are invariably from the marginalized sections of society like refugees, hapless destitute, landless farmers and those from minorities. If quite a few police officials are corrupt and ‘buy’ police stations of their choice, many others are under political threat of transfer to far-off places or they may be the cat’s paw of their political masters. The HRW report doesn’t cover Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, but the rest of the provinces which it covered presents a shocking picture in that these custodians of law are in fact the traditional wolf in sheep’s clothing.
And what an irony the curse of using police for political purposes tends to flourish in democratic ambience. No surprise then military dictator General Musharraf’s decision of replacing archaic Police Order 1861 by Police Order 2002 has never been fully implemented. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif did set up ‘police councils to promote public relationship’ and ordered to build up 100 model police stations. But the scheme largely stayed put on the drawing board and didn’t dare climbing down from there.
By now the successive political masters should have done something to modernise the police force by freeing it of its colonial mindset, particularly of the prevalent interrogation techniques. If for some reason that it doesn’t have the blueprint to do so it may like to seek advice from others, including the Human Rights Watch which in its latest report has made quite a few actionable recommendations.
For one, in case a police official is accused of human rights violations he should be investigated and if found guilty should be disciplined. Two, the First Information Report (FIR) should be registered in all cases where a complainant provides information. If refused the reason for it should be recorded and a copy of it must be provided to the complainant.
Three, interrogation techniques should be explicitly defined in the police rules and manuals, beyond which it should be treated as grievous for torture and should be strictly prohibited. Four, postings and transfers of police officials particularly Station House Officers (SHOs) should be time-specific, in defiance of the ‘order from above’ as punishment for refusing to oblige some political influential. The Watch recommends that local police should be protected from political and other improper influence and harassment.
Five, illegal detentions should be prohibited; for which senior officers should make surprise visits to detention centres. Possibly, there should be the Office of Police Ombudsman which should examine public complaints against police personnel. Also, the suggestion by a retired police officer that the Supreme Court should give ‘tenure security’ to the officials investigating corruption scandals should receive parliament’s notice and enacted as law. Last but not the least, the working conditions for the police force, in office or out on duty, should be ungraded by equipping it with all relevant implements including latest forensic technology.
Who would differ with Brad Adams, Asia Director at Human Rights Watch, who says: “Pakistan faces grave security challenges that can be handled by a rights respecting, accountable police force. Instead, law enforcement has been left to a police force filled with disgruntled, corrupt and tired officers who commit abuses with impunity, making Pakistanis less safe, not more”.
Source: Business Recorder