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Pakistani police needs to think before it shoots

Pakistani police needs to think before it shoots

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On Friday, Karachi police mistook two men for miscreants and promptly began to shoot at them – killing one and injuring the other. A witness named Noman, who was riding on a bike with his friend, says that he stopped the bike momentarily to take a phone call. Three constables on standby near the area suspected the two were looters and when one of them put his hand in his pocket, they apparently thought he was pulling out a weapon. Immediately, they began shooting. One bullet injured Noman’s friend while a stray bullet ended up killing another motorcyclist, Mohammad Aslam.

“With my hands up, I told the police we are not robbers,” said Noman. But his statement was not enough to make the police officers stop shooting. They could have investigated the matter further, but they chose not to, perhaps because doing it this way was quicker and more convenient for them.

This is not an isolated incident.

In 2019, three constables were accused and brought to court regarding a similar act of brutality against two citizens. They shot at a citizen vehicle containing two passengers, killing one and injuring the other. In the same year, an Assistant Sub-Inspector in Lahore was arrested for hurling insults at an elderly woman and even flinging her walking stick away. On YouTube, there is also a disturbing video that was posted in January 2019 showing Punjab policemen beating up multiple women.

Unfortunately, the list of brutal offences committed by police is a never ending one. Senior police officials such as Station House Officers (SHOs) who are in charge of station affairs have also been known to partake in crimes against citizens. Horrific as it sounds, torture is one of these heinous crimes.

One of such victims is Amjad, who was found in a torture cell in Lahore by an anti-corruption squad. He was so badly injured that he could not move; he was suffering from fractures of the backbone and hips. In an official statement, he reported that police officers had stormed his house – roughed up his wife and children in the process – and dragged him into their vehicle. After this, he was subjected to torture for several days. Throughout this ordeal, he was never told why this was happening. His rights were not read to him, he was not told what charges he was facing, and he was overall completely helpless.

Many others tell the same story.

When those who are meant to fight crime on the streets are also carrying out such brutal acts of violence against innocent citizens, how can justice ever be expected to prevail? The police force is an integral link between the citizens and judiciary. If citizens cannot trust the police, justice will fail. Already, Pakistanis do not view police officers in a positive light; they are mistrustful, even terrified. This does not bode well for a country where crime is plentiful, and the odds have been persistently stacked against innocents.