The shocking death of Amal, a school going girl, who was killed during an encounter between mobile snatchers and policemen on the eve of Independence Day, has taken a new turn. We are told that Amal died from a bullet fired by the police.
Initial reports of the killing suggest that she died during a robbery gone wrong. The family was being robbed in Gizri when a police mobile arrived. We are told that in a bid to deflect attention, the robbers allegedly fired shots, with one bullet hitting the girl.
However, the forensic examination of the encounter has now revealed that the bullets that the minor had suffered were fired by the police. In other words, this death could have been avoided.
This is not the first time the police acted in haste. What is, however, important to understand is that this is not an isolated incident.
Take for example in January this year when 19-year-old Intizar Ahmed was killed by policemen when he did not stop his car on their signal. Intizar died instantly. Six policemen were detained. The parents are still fighting for justice.
After Amal’s death, there was again a familiar sense of fear amongst parents of Karachi. Time and again they have seen how the police has failed to stop killing of innocent children and have then tried to cover up their incompetence.
Who can forget the killing of Shahzeb Khan in 2012. Today Shahzeb’s father has given up his fight for justice. He has given up the will to live. He was let down by his own shameless police colleagues who went out of the way to protect the murderers after receiving millions in bribes. How can such force fight crime?
In between Amal and Shahzeb there have been several other incidents where the trigger-happy Karachi police has opened fire without understanding the implications of their actions. In almost all such incidents, the policemen are let off with a mild rebuke.
For the Peoples Party government, the Karachi police is like a cash-cow. Appointments, postings and transfers are all made after officials and relevant ministers get their cut. Incompetent but compliant policemen are able to make money and keep everyone happy while the better officers of the force are sidelined.
Corruption is legendary. Everything is for sale. Take for example how the local SHO ‘rents’ out police mobiles to his juniors, who then proceed to go out and set up a naka in the name of law and order. The sipahis spend hours stopping and extracting money from the poor and the powerless. Once you pay the bribe, you can all but carry a cannon for all they care. And in the process, a mobile police unit makes over Rs20,000 or more daily. If only they could spend some of that on their vehicles and their uniforms.
The claim that our police force or law enforcers don’t have enough funds is a lie. Not only do the officers ride in vehicles that cost over Rs10 million, many have more guards than there are at police stations. There is over-employment based on false threat of terror.
The Karachi police needs a major overhaul. To begin with, it needs to be a representative force. There are almost no locals in the force, with most positions held by those who have no stakes in the city. The police is possibly the most corrupt in the country. It has taken advantage of all the political vacuums the city has gone through and has always made money for itself.
While police stations are poorly funded, officials live in multi-million-rupee mansions. The police force does little to protect the people of the city.
Crime statistics, which had gone done two years back, have started to rise again. Media has reported that in 2017, 16,232 mobile phones were snatched at gunpoint as compared to 16,069 in 2016, an increase of 1.01 per cent, according to the CPLC data. This year the numbers are higher. Interestingly, the crime statistics data shared on Sindh police’s website does not mention mobile snatchings and only focuses on heinous crimes, including murder, robberies and suicide blasts.
As citizens of Pakistan, we have a right to demand that the police protects us. So far, it has been protecting itself only.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 20th, 2018.