Bus attack: Can the Sindh police fight back? Yes, they say, but only criminals, not politics

Pressure builds to release the political activists behind the Chakra Goth ambush.


Express August 22, 2011

KARACHI: The killing of four policemen in Korangi on August 20 by suspected hitmen belonging to a political party has not only further dampened the morale of the force, but some senior officers went as far as to call it the final nail on the coffin of their independence.

(Read: The case continues: Man shot dead before bus attack)

“We always took care not to touch their [political party] people,” said a senior police officer, who did not want to be named. “But even then our personnel have been targeted and killed.”

The visibly depressed officer said that to add salt to fresh wounds, the force is being pressured to release the suspects in their custody. At least a dozen men, including four belonging to a political party, were caught.

The state of affairs is such that from a constable to the highest ranking officer, no one is prepared to take any action against the target killers even if they see the crime taking place in front of their very own eyes. “How can they do anything at all in this climate of fear?” asked the officer. “Even before the Chakra Goth incident, everyone in the force knew that all police officers who played an instrumental role in the 1990s were knocked off one by one.”

Another senior police officer admitted to feeling ashamed when he had to face his men. “The problem is simple,” he said. “The attackers not only belong to the parties currently in power in the Sindh government, but also among the undisputed rulers of this city.” He listed the numerous torture cells operating in the city under the banner of political parties. “Some even have proper lock-ups like the ones we have here, with space to accommodate a dozen hostages.” But when asked whether he would raid any such cells, he retorted, “Are you mad?”

The junior police officers, however, criticise their police leadership for lacking spine. “They fear being transferred and losing their perks if they work against the wishes of a political party,” said one head moharrar, whose job is to run a police station. A police inspector who was injured during an attack in the recent past, says that to date he hasn’t received the compensation promised by the government. “These senior police officials don’t even come to the funeral ceremonies of some of our men, so what can we expect from them?” he said. Police officials say the only option to save the Sindh police is to give them a ‘free hand’ and complete independence from the influence of political parties. But can this happen soon or anytime at all? A senior police officer put it plainly: “I don’t think so…I’ve lost all hope that things will improve.”

Published in The Express Tribune, August 23rd,  2011.

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