Sindh Rangers Director General Maj Gen Bilal Akbar urged the Supreme Court on Monday to allow the paramilitary force to set up its own ‘police stations’ as he took a swipe at the police for its poor investigation.
“If this is done, obviously after registering FIR and conducting investigation, challans shall be filed in normal courts or anti-terrorism courts established under the judicial system of Pakistan,” Maj Gen Akbar told the apex court’s five-member bench.
The bench resumed hearing of the Karachi law and order suo motu case at its Karachi registry.
Presenting a progress report before the court at its Karachi registry, the Rangers DG said that between September 2013 and March 4, 2016, the paramilitary force had arrested 5,096 suspects who had been handed over to the police for prosecution. Of these 168 had been convicted while 83 had been acquitted by the courts while 1,156 had been released on bail.
The report, filed by Advocate Shahid Anwar Bajwa on behalf of DG Rangers, claimed that over 1,100 suspected criminals had been let off the hook over the past 18 months owing to faulty police investigations.
As an example, the report quoted the case of a man who is allegedly involved in the attack on a bus in Safoora Goth in May 2015, which left at least 46 people dead. The report pointed out that the suspect had been arrested in 2011 but was let go after the police failed to properly investigate the case and produce evidence, even though intelligence reports clearly indicated he intended to commit greater acts. “This he certainly did at Safoora Goth.”
Maj Gen Akbar blamed the government’s frequent transfer policy as one of the causes for the police’s lacklustre performances. He pointed out that investigation officers are changed frequently at five police stations tasked with handling cases brought by Rangers. “The result has been nothing.”
The absence of tenure security, he pointed out, persists at multiple levels.
“Even within 2015 three or four home secretaries were changed,” he said. In contrast, only two DG Rangers had been changed in the past five years.
Further, he lamented the quality of recruits within the police system which led to poor investigation of cases.
“Recruitment in Sindh police is not on the basis of merit and neither [do officers] receive sufficient training.”
Things, Maj Gen Akbar said, had become worse since the Rangers presented former federal petroleum minister Dr Asim Hussain before courts. Before the case, the paramilitary force had been provided 11 prosecutors to deal with various cases. Since then, the request made to the Sindh Home Department on December 9 to notify prosecutors in 110 cases was still pending.
DG Rangers alleged that the Sindh government’s actions were tantamount to limiting the legal powers and actions of the paramilitary force. “If they were not allowed to apprehend terrorism facilitators, abettors, financers and others involved in criminal activity, how could any action against terrorism be effective?” he asked.
Warning that the current law and order situation, which had improved in recent years, was fragile, he urged the apex court to take effective steps in depoliticising the police, make the process of appointments in the force transparent and merit based while ensuring security of tenure for those involved in law enforcement.
He also urged the SC to extend the term for police powers for Rangers to yearly basis.
The SC judges observed that the Rangers’ report was akin to a charge-sheet against the provincial government. They subsequently directed provincial chief secretary Muhammad Siddique Memon to submit ‘para-wise’ response to the Rangers report today (Tuesday).
Earlier, Sindh Police Chief Ghulam Haider Jamali said that the situation in the
metropolis had improved remarkably with incidents of targeted killing down to just 159 during 2015. He added that police was working jointly with Rangers intelligence to control crimes.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 8th, 2016.