Since the Punjab Police have shown no or little sign of improvement despite many attempts to reform this notorious force in the past, it is time to abolish this rotten institution and replace it with one that is meant for dealing with human beings. The death of Salahuddin Ayubi allegedly because of police torture during interrogation in Rahim Yar Khan and the incident in Lahore where a police official publicly misbehaved with an old woman, have once again underlined the need for taking drastic steps to end this police culture of barbarity.
This was not the first time the accused was killed in police custody. The practice has been rampant in Punjab and even the rest of the country for many years, despite the fact that the Police Order 2002, which was further amended in 2013, envisages up to five year’s imprisonment for cops found guilty of torture and violence to any person in their custody.
Why people are more upset is because this is happening in “Naya Pakistan”. The PTI had pledged to reform the police system during its election campaign. While PTI voters and supporters have stoutly defended the current government’s poor performance, for once they also felt dejected over the incident and are now openly questioning Imran if this was the “Naya Pakistan” he had promised. The Rahim Yar Khan tragedy occurred despite promises by the PTI’s government to transform Pakistan into a “State of Madina” where rulers will be held accountable even if a stray animal dies. But such is the state of affairs that the Prime Minister has not even uttered a word on the alleged brutal murder of Salahuddin, though he apparently spends considerable time on Twitter to comment on mostly every issue. The response from the Punjab government, led by Chief Minister Usman Buzdar (nicknamed as Wasim Akram plus) is even more pathetic. He neither spoke on the issue nor issued any statement. But after immense public pressure and campaign on social media, the Punjab government was compelled to order a judicial inquiry. But everyone knows that nothing is going to happen. Like other tragedies, this case in all probability will soon be brushed under the carpet.
As has been the standard practice, authorities will pledge strong action against the guilty police officials while promising to reform the police. But let’s be honest, no amount of reforms can now change the Punjab Police. True, not every police official is corrupt. The provincial police force is allegedly damaged beyond repair. It is like a dilapidated building that cannot survive no matter how much repair and renovation is done. Ultimately, the best solution is to demolish the structure and pave the way for a new one. The current Punjab Police have to be erased. It may sound radical but all the police officials should be sent home with a golden handshake. Build a new depoliticised police force comprising young and educated persons. Recruit them through a competitive process with mandatory personality analysis to ensure they respect other humans. If anyone from the current police lot fulfils this criterion, he/she should be given a second chance. It is certainly an extreme view but perhaps there is no other choice. In medical terms, there comes a critical stage when doctors are left with no option but to amputate to ensure the patient’s survival. The Punjab Police, as evident from the recent incidents, has now become a liability instead of an asset. Amputation is the only solution otherwise Salahuddin will not be the last victim of alleged police brutality.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 9th, 2019.