End to ‘thana culture’: not as simple as it may seem

Overstepping and misuse of power is common during police raids


Muhammad Shahzad July 15, 2019
An SHO brutally tortured an elderly woman after barging into her house in Multan and a police team raided a guest house.CREATIVE: MUNIRA ABBAS

LAHORE: Bringing a change in Thana Culture has become an integral part of political rhetoric for over a decade. Successive governments have been promising public for the change in policing culture.

Prime Minister Imran Khan had announced it as an integral part of his election manifesto. Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) played it loud in police reforms in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Right after forming a government in Punjab, PTI announced that police reforms were on its propriety list.

Abuse of power: Claims of ending thana culture bite the dust

Almost 10 months have lapsed but Punjab is yet to see even a fraction of change in the policing culture.

The incidents of police brutality, pathetic service delivery and public dealing are being reported on an almost daily basis, setting aside the question of improvement in the department’s working.

Last week two such cases surfaced. An SHO brutally tortured an elderly woman after barging into her house in Multan and a police team raided a guest house, slapped women and films them in a compromised position in Johar Town, Lahore.

Chief Minister Usman Buzdar took the notice of SHO’s transgression of powers in Multan. So far, suspending the officers and ‘taking notice’ have not proved fruitful in stopping recurrence of such incidents.

Redefining the police power to conduct a raid is a burning issue. Legally, they are not allowed to enter a house without a warrant. However, police used their power to arrest a suspect merely on information to ‘prove’ their nuisance values. This power needs to be redefined, new SOPs and checks and balance must be defined.

The same week, a horrifying video in which a police party could be seen torturing, abusing, humiliating and even filming women in compromised condition reportedly during a raid at a guest house in Johar Town went viral. Though it has been claimed that the video was two months old and the police officials have already been penalised. Yet, the issue still persists.

This is not an isolated incident of police brutality and overstepping their powers during raids particularly at hotels. A few years back, an ASP was booked for torturing a hotel employee during a raid in Johar Town. Former SHO Maqsood Gujjar was seen humiliating and torturing a hotel employee during a raid in Lytton Road area. Former SHO Rai Nasir Abbass was also seen in a video torturing a hotel employee. A hotel employee had died after falling off the roof in Mozang during a police raid.

The list is long. In every such raid, police registered an FIR under a formula statement that they had received information “a criminal was hiding in a hotel”. They conducted a raid and found couples in a compromised position. In most of the cases, police registered cases under section 371 A/B (selling or buying for the purpose of sex).

Interestingly, there has not been even a single conviction under this offence.

Model police stations fail to change Punjab Thana culture

Raids at hotels are not a simple matter. Hotel owners allege that demand for extortion was always the major reason behind the move. However, the police deny the allegations. Whatever, the actual case is, the practice is not only shady but a few incidents have proved to be inhumane in nature such as the recent video of Johar Town incident in which women in compromised position were filmed and later the video was leaked.

The government needs to thoroughly investigate such incidents involving sheer misuse of powers and devise a policy even amend the law after consultation with all the stakeholders.

 

Published in The Express Tribune, July 15th, 2019.

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