KARACHI: Police in different districts of Sindh have been using women to pressure families into giving up wanted criminals and suspects.
The case of the Jafferi family is an example as one of their men was wanted by the Shikarpur police in several cases. “The Humayun police of Shikarpur district raided the dacoit’s house some time ago,” said Paryal Mari, a human rights activist from the area. “The men managed to escape, but the police then took all the women to the police station where one of the women even gave birth to a child.”
According to Mari, six women from the family were kept at the police station for five days and were only released after the family could pay the police off by selling their animals. “This is a total violation of human rights because you cannot do this without a warrant.”
Mari went so far as to say that there was a time when the police stations of Shikarpur district were full of women when tribal clashes were taking place between the Maher and Jatoi, Isani and Qambrani, Marfani and Brohi tribes.
According to official sources, this practice is particularly prevalent in upper Sindh, including Larkana, Qamber-Shahdadkot, Jacobabad and Sukkur. Sources said that after taking the women from their homes, the police either keep them at private houses or bungalows during the daytime because of the fear that a magistrate may conduct a raid at the police station. When night falls, the women are returned to the police station where an investigation officer is tasked with pressuring them into talking their men into giving themselves up to the police.
A senior official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told The Express Tribune that unfortunately the police had to use this tactic in bad criminal cases. “They have no other way to arrest the culprit,” he said. “Therefore taking their families to the police station is the best way for the police to negotiate with the criminal. This happens a lot in kidnapping for ransom cases.”
Ahmed Ali’s family was taken in by the Larkana police about six months ago. The police suspected that Ali’s son had kidnapped a man from the area. According to Ali, his son was not involved in the crime but the police raided their house and took away six women and girls. “We complained to the DIG of Larkana, but in vain and later learnt that the raid was conducted on the orders of a senior police official,” Ali said. “In the daytime the police kept my family at an undisclosed location and during the night they brought them to the police station where the SHO used to pressure my wife and daughters to ask my son to release the kidnapped man,” he said.
It took five thousand rupees per person to have the family released. “There was not just my family, but two other families in police custody as well,” Ali revealed.
DIG Larkana Sanaullah Abbasi told The Express Tribune that sometimes women are also involved in criminal activities along with their spouses. He referred to the case of Asim Kabir, a former legislator of the MQM who was kidnapped from Nawabshah and guarded by some women. “They were continuously in contact with the gang of dacoits,” he said. “In most of these cases, when these abductees are kept in a house, these women arrange food for them.” He gave the example of another kidnapping case in Kashmore district where the victim told the police that the kidnapper’s wife insisted on the ransom.
The DIG said he had issued a circular telling the police that they could not use the tactic of holding women ‘hostage’. “We have to be different from others. What is right and wrong? The police are not gangsters, but guardians of the people,” he quoted from the circular.
However, Anees Haroon of the Aurat Foundation said that the women are soft targets and the tactic has been adopted by the police who want to make a quick buck on the side. Otherwise the police can’t even keep a woman at a police station.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 19th, 2010.