KARACHI: Usama Razaque, a practicing lawyer, learnt on Monday that the title of 'baap [father]' is reserved for VIPs in the country after a policeman slapped him for coming in the way of a VIP movement.
The Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science and Technology law graduate was assaulted on Monday by a police constable for driving near the convoy of a yet to be identified VIP on main Sharae Faisal.
A white Sedan with a government-trademark green licence plate, escorted by a convoy of two mobile vans, which were carrying around a dozen extra-vigilant policemen brandishing assault rifles, stopped Razaque's vehicle while he was on his mobile phone, filming the scene.
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As soon as the convoy stopped, policemen jumped out of the mobile vans and one of them, later identified as Shaheen, ran towards Razaque while he sat behind the wheel. The policeman greeted him with abuses before slapping him.
"….tera baap ja raha hai [your father is moving in the convoy]," Shaheen said, as seen in the video on the Facebook page of Times of Karachi. The policeman was referring to the VIP apparently sitting in the sedan.
After slapping Razaque, the policeman retreated and the convoy moved ahead but stopped after a few metres to harass him again. This time, however, the lawyer asked the policeman why he was being assaulted - a question that most of the victims of a VIP protocol ask.
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Humiliated by those who are supposed to protect him, Razaque decided to go to the court of the people by sharing a video of the assault on social media. And it worked, at least initially.
Inspector-General of Police Allah Dino Khawaja took notice of the incident and, while appointing an officer, SP Security-I Malik Ehsan, ordered the suspension of those involved in the assault. Subsequently, ASI Allah Ditta and Shaheen were suspended and expect to face a departmental inquiry.
Meanwhile, the victim of the VIP protocol has also submitted an application with the police, seeking the registration of a FIR over the incident. "I will follow due course to find justice," Razaque said, adding that he has yet to hear from the police about his application to register an FIR.
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"This VIP culture has become a scourge for the common people. Guards on escort duty point their weapons at us [the public] as if we are terrorists or aliens in the country. They should know that the salaries of the police and of their VIP are paid from our pockets," he commented.
According to him, he mistakenly entered the lane where the convoy was passing and was disrespected and assaulted as a punishment for this 'felony'.
"They signaled me to stop and, as I was driving my vehicle to the side, they jammed me [in]. I sensed that something bad was going to happen so I switched on put my mobile phone camera."
This is not an isolated incident as such incidents often take place in the metropolis. A 23-year-old boy, Tahir Malik, was shot dead by the security of former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gillani's son in Lahore in 2014. Similar incidents have been reported from across the country and the public anger is increasing day by day.
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"It is outdated feudalism. This has now reached to the urban areas," Human Rights Commission of Pakistan Vice-Chairperson Asad Iqbal Butt said. "We have to change this feudal mentality. Waving weapons in the air and harassing and torturing citizens on the road is creating grave negative impacts on the society."
He also shed light on the closure of roads for the VIPs. Many cases have been reported in which patients have died in ambulances or their conditions have worsened due to the roadblocks for VIP movements.
Butt stressed the need to bring legislation to curb this practice. But he said that unfortunately, those who could bring such legislation, are themselves promoting this tyrannical, feudalistic and undemocratic culture.
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As for Razque's case, the inquiry officer said that the proceedings against the suspended personnel have already been initiated. He said that the convoy belonged to a judge, who he did not name. According to the inquiry officer, the incident doesn't constitute a case as it was mere mishandling.
The victim, like many others, awaits justice because for him VIP culture is causing the same trauma as uncontrolled street crimes are to the public.
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