Police Reforms in Pakistan, an uphill task

Police Reforms in Pakistan, an uphill task

By Syeda Tuba Aamir

ISLAMABAD - The Prime Minister of Pakistan is set to make vital Police reforms in the coming weeks. However, police brutality has been going on for too long. The past few months, Pakistan has witnessed ghastly cases of police inhumanness.

It would be incorrect to say that the country is seeing a surge in these cases recently as they have been happening for a long time. The only difference is that due to social media, police misconduct is being highlighted repeatedly. The duty of police is to protect the citizens and uphold peace.

Contrary to the definition, police in the country has been involved in gross violations of human rights and power abuse. The lack of accountability and outdated methods has added up to the arbitrary arrests, extrajudicial killings, detention, and torture.

Ironically, the word ‘torture’ cannot be found under any section of PPC (Pakistan Penal Code), and the word ‘hurt’ has been used instead. However, causing hurt to extort confession is punishable under the law of Pakistan. Pakistan is also a part of a UN convention against torture, but the torture cells and torture killings are proof enough that the rules are being broken by the upholders of law.

Salahuddin Ayubi, a man who robbed an ATM in Faisalabad and stuck his tongue out at the camera was killed in police custody after being arrested for 2 days. Initially, the police blamed the death on his health condition. However, there was an uproar when a video of him went viral where he was seen asking his tormentor ‘Who taught you to torture people?

Salahuddin was mentally unfit, he had his address engraved on his hand by his family so he could be sent home wherever found. If this did not stop the tormentors from torturing him then how can we determine if these officers are mentally stable themselves? Ayubi’s case is in court and we can only hope that justice will be served on his custodial killing.

Ayubi’s case should have alarmed the legislators regarding the lack of legislation present for custodial killings and brutality. Sadly, the torture bill has not been passed for years and is still pending on the mercy of bureaucrats. Along with comprehensive laws defining torture, we are in a dire need of implementation.

Unfortunately, corruption, poor public dealing, misuse of power, political interference, bribery and impunity by powerful politicians have plagued the police system in such a way that rogue elements in the department feel untouchable. Due to repeatedly using torture, many of these officers have become mentally unfit. Along with other measures, we need yearly mental health evaluation for every serving officer.

Dr Wajahat Khan while discussing Ayubi’s case says that we have to check if these abusive police officers have become sadistic. Are these officers inflicting pain in order to gain satisfaction? Sometimes being in power and being dominant can blur the lines between right and wrong. He says that our police department needs to upgrade its techniques and resort to a more gentle way of extorting truth.

One more important reason why custodial torture is rampant is because of the lack of public awareness regarding their legal rights and basic human rights. For every crime, there is a due process and subjecting anyone to torture is uncalled for.

It is the responsibility of the state to ensure that police reforms take place. Instead of banning use of mobile phones for officers during duty hours, IG Punjab should ban torture cells and barbarity, fake encounters in the name of ‘interrogation’.

Furthermore, the state should also make sure that it gives quality benefits to its officers and they are not overloaded or exhausted with work. If action is not taken, this menace will only grow. If the trust deficit of the masses is not eradicated, dedicated, honest and decent police officers will always be overlooked and never be fully recognized by the masses.

A pavlovian response to every custodial killing case that surfaces is to suspend the DSP and other cops. While it might help with calming the noise of the masses, it is not a permanent solution. There are hundreds of unreported cases because families are too scared or harassed to keep silent.

The public look up to the police for security and help. Police stations and officers should be a safe place for citizens to report crime as soon as it happens, not the last. When the new government formed under Imran Khan, he had specifically promised to depoliticize police and work towards major Police reforms.

A system that has been corrupted and protected by unprofessional individuals will only collapse to the depths of dread. We have yet to see major reforms and improvements that are not improvident. The people have had enough of clamorous condemnations and empty promises, it is time to act and make reforms.

The writer tweets at @TubaAtweets