One by one over the years, nearly 150 policemen who took part in the 1992 and 1996 operations in Karachi, have been killed since that bloody chapter in Sindh’s history.
The worst year was 1996 when 57 of them were sent to their untimely graves.
The department has submitted to the Supreme Court the details of these officers’ names, ranks, the places where they were killed and when, as well as the status of these cases. The court took notice of the cop killings as a corrollary to Karachi’s violence and the force’s ability to tackle criminal elements. In its verdict the apex court noted that, “[The police] are conscious of the fact that so many [of them] who took part in the operations of 1992 and 1996 have disappeared or have been eliminated.” The judges then asked the department to put together a report on the victims.
These developments are being closely watched, especially by the 300 policemen who have ‘survived’ since the crackdowns. Nearly 50 of them are high-ranking officers who have long noted the trend. “Our friends were not killed. They were martyred and a martyr never dies,” said one officer who was part of this group. “We didn’t do anything personally; we were just following orders.”
Many men, especially the seniors, have retired or transferred to different departments and different cities. Some of them have even quit their jobs and moved abroad. Prominent among those who work today are IG Rana Maqbool Ahmed, DIG Shoaib Suddle, DIG Shahid Hayat, DIG Ghulam Mehmood Dogar, DIG Din Mohammad Baloch, SSP Hussain Asghar, SP Azhar Hameed Khokhar, SSP Chaudhry Aslam Khan, SP Rao Anwar, Sarwar Commando, Naeem Sannatta, Irfan Bahadur, Naeem Barrel and Bahauddin Babar. Among these, a few policemen have also been targeted but escaped. One of them was DIG Shahid Hayat who survived a murderous attack in 1996 at Orangi Town.
One way out was to ‘officially’ apologise, which some policemen did. “The sensible thing to do is understand what times we live in,” said one of them. “But even now we don’t necessarily feel safe and we could still be bumped off any time.”
Although these men believe that their lives are at risk, many have decided to continue working. They are the ones who have welcomed the Supreme Court’s notice of the issue. Malir SP Rao Anwar is one of them. “Every criminal is the police’s enemy, whether they are a thief or not,” he said. “And besides, even if if we gave up the police job, would that guarantee we won’t be targeted?” He felt, however, that as long as the top brass has their back, they can face the challenges the job brings.
The families of the 157 policemen have been compensated but they too want to see the killers behind bars. And indeed, the force has its work cut out for it because in 80% of the cases, no one has been arrested or punished.
That there is bad blood no one denies, and there are officers who are angry over losing friends and colleagues. “There is a famous saying that there is no one more badmash than the police,” said one officer who took part in one of the operations. “The police showed their badmashi [then]. But it would be best if they are not cornered into showing it again, for that would be worse a second time around.”
Click here to view reports and a Karachi map of the areas where the policemen were killed.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 10th, 2011.