One of the ways in which the police department reacted to the criticism heaped on it for its failure to control the law and order in the city in 2011 was to deploy the Eagle Force on Karachi’s roads.
Inspector General Police at the time, Wajid Ali Durrani, had reactivated the force, whose members used to wear red tags on their eagle-marked uniform. The Eagle Squad first became operational in the 1980s.
However, in fact, some units of the Sindh Reserve Police (SRP) were incorporated into the new force. Just like the SRP, watchmen, barbers, gardeners and other non-professionals are also part of the Eagle Squad. “These people are not trained and are supposed to perform the duty inside the base,” said a senior police official.
The Eagle Force currently consists nearly 200 policemen. They have been equipped with latest weapons, and two officials share a motorcycle. The officials, who appeared to have given up on their “eagle caps,” now don regular police uniforms and are responsible for patrolling areas across all police limits in the city, especially those in the sensitive areas.
However, like all things that state departments put their hands on, the force also seems to have become a victim of malaise that has been a bane of existence for the entire police department.
Senior police officials at the Eagle Force’s SRP Base II, near Qayyumabad, are reportedly engaged in a lucrative business. They charge a “commission” of Rs500 from every force member who has been given a bike, and those who are unable to pay the amount are then posted as watchmen or gardeners at the base.
“There are around 150 motorcycles in our base, each of which is shared by two policemen. We split the amount [of Rs500] and pay it to our in-charge, who does not bother us about the rest of our earnings for the day,” said a member of the Eagle Force, Allah Rahikyoo Brohi*.
However, it is implicitly understood that the policemen are supposed to raise that amount, and then some, by charging people driving without their driver licences or their identity cards, or those who have fake number plates. On the rare occasion when the official catches a suspect during snap checking, his haul for the day can go up considerably.
Brohi said that he starts working 8:00 am, and can easily earn nearly Rs2,000 to Rs3,000 over the next 12 hours.
However, Nazar Mohammad*, who, like Brohi, is a member of the Eagle Force, had a slightly different experience to share. He owed Rs5,000 in “commissions” to DSP Shamsuddin Solangi, who later assigned him to work at the front gate of the force’s base. “I used to pay him Rs500 every day, until I was deployed within Defence police limits. The area has not been lucrative in terms of earning money. But the DSP did not listen to me and handed my motorcycle to other officers.”
Solangi, however, denied the allegations levelled against him and cited his past job record as proof. He claimed that crime graphs of the Citizens Police Liaison Committee (CPLC) reflected the efforts of the Eagle Force.
The provincial home department’s additional chief secretary Sohail Abkar Shah, Inspector General Police Mushtaque Shah and SRP DIG Sultan Khawaja were unavailable for comment.
* The names of Eagle Force members quoted in the story have been changed to protect their identity.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 22nd, 2012.