LAHORE: A two-member bench of the Supreme Court continued its withering appraisal of the police here on Thursday, observing that its incompetence meant that the writ of the state in the Punjab appeared to be as fragile as it is in Balochistan.
The court was hearing three cases jointly – one a petition for the recovery of a maid abducted from Lahore, the second concerning a murder during an incident of illegal dispossession, and the third concerning the arrest of the alleged ring leader in a gang rape case who is said to be a friend of Law Minister Rana Sanaullah.
Capital City Police Officer Ahmad Raza Tahir and Model Town Division SP Ijaz Shafi Dogar appeared in court in connection with the abduction and murder cases, while Faisalabad Regional Police Officer Aftab Cheema and District Police Officer Bilal Siddique Kamyana were summoned over the police’s failure to arrest the main suspect in the gang-rape case. Advocate General Ashtar Ausaf Ali and DIG Maj (retired) Mubasharullah also appeared.
The bench of Justice Jawwad S Khawaja and Justice Amir Hani Muslim said that the actions of the police in these cases “made a very strong case for packing up the department”, but the court lacked the authority to order this.
Discussing the Faisalabad gang-rape case, Justice Khawaja said the main accused, Asghar Ali, had been handed over in a courtroom to DSP Mian Khalid. The accused escaped and is still at large, he said.
Faisalabad DPO Kamyana said that the DSP had been made an officer on special duty. “Do you think that is a punishment?” Justice Khawaja asked.
The DPO said the police would publish advertisements in the press for the arrest of the accused. Justice Khawaja remarked, “Are you making a joke? Do you think the accused will surrender to the police on seeing the advertisement in a newspaper?”
The judge continued in his sarcastic vein. “Mr Ashtar, tell us, is it our job to investigate cases and arrest accused?” he asked the advocate general. He said the Supreme Court was already being accused of encroaching on the jurisdiction of other institutions, but in this case the court didn’t have any other option. “I cannot sleep when I see the ill-fated girl standing helpless in my court,” he said.
He said that the senior police officials would have to face the consequences of the delinquency of their subordinates.
Justice Khawaja said that police investigators were not properly trained. The advocate general agreed that this was true, but added that the Punjab government was aware of this and was about to introduce major police reforms. He said that the police lacked training in crime scene management and forensic science.
The bench directed the police officers to make progress in the three cases and adjourned the joint hearing till March 27. Before taking up the next case, the victim of the gang rape told the court that a reconciliation had been proposed and she was considering it. Justice Khawaja, however, said the court would not accept any reconciliation.