Do Rangers always act with impunity?

A force established for the protection of society, is incinerating its reputation.

Anwer Mooraj July 20, 2013

How many of you remember that secretly filmed video which was repeatedly shown on local television in which a young man strolls leisurely across a park? A plainclothes policeman suddenly grabs him and pushes him towards a group of armed men, one of whom holds a pistol to his head. Another shoots him twice in the thigh and he falls to the ground, bleeding profusely. He appears to be pleading for his life. But his entreaties fall on deaf ears. He dies a slow, painful death.

In case you are wondering if I am referring to a clip from one of those pirated American action-thriller sitcoms that have been unleashed on the video shops in Karachi, the answer is no. The video in question was shot locally and it is believed the cameraman is still in hiding. The men in uniform are Rangers, an internal security force with the prime objective of providing and maintaining security in war zones and areas of conflict. The victim was Sarfaraz Shah, a jaywalker suspected of being a robber.

The family of the deceased stated that Shah just happened to be strolling in the park because there was no electricity in his apartment. The Rangers insisted that the young man was about to commit a robbery. The video sparked a huge controversy at the time. There were a few editorials in the newspapers and I believe a couple of talk shows touched on the issue somewhat gingerly. Some politicians called for the Rangers involved to be prosecuted.

On June 5, 2013, on Sharae Faisal in Karachi, a Ranger shot and killed a 24-year-old man, who had gotten married 25 days earlier and was allegedly driving a friend to hospital for a session of dialysis. In the official version, the men in uniform had signalled the driver to stop his speeding car but he had apparently ignored the command. Later, the dialysis patient pointed out that in their haste to get to the hospital, they had not seen the Rangers waving them to stop.

Then, there was the more recent case of a Karachi taxi driver, who had just bought some fruit to open his fast. He was flagged down by the Rangers. But when he reversed his taxi, he was shot by Ranger Lance Naik Ghulam Rasul, while the victim’s stunned and traumatised four-year-old son witnessed the murder. The Chief Justice of Pakistan has taken suo-motu notice of the incident and the gunman is in the lock-up. Is this an indication that Rangers cannot always act with impunity and are not above the law?

Against a background of a soaring crime rate in certain sections of the city, it is extremely difficult to comment objectively on this issue, as the authorities have been struggling for quite a while to impose some semblance of order. But it is also difficult to justify the extreme measures at times taken by the Rangers in carrying out their duties. Paramilitary forces come across as a bunch of trigger-happy robots that slip into their roles like battery-operated toys and work on the principle that one should shoot first and ask questions later. And so, a force established for the protection of society, is incinerating its reputation and has ended up being feared and reviled. It is time efforts were made by those at the top to alter the image.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 21st, 2013.

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Muneer | 10 years ago | Reply

The Rangers are not a bunch of trigger happy robots,they are a disciplined force and know the consequences of a wrong act.In this case the taxi driver was asked to stop,but he did not stop,so he was shot.Unfortunately, he was later found to be apprarently innocent. Let us consider the opposite scenario,a tax driver is asked to stop,he does not,should the Ranger personnel on duty consider that let bygones be bygones and forget about the incident or may be he reports about the incident to higher authority which would have been inconsequential. What if the taxi driver later turns out to be a 'terrorist?. Then the same author/ elements of media would have said that the Rangers are not performing their duty and the higher ups should improve the image and efficiency of the force. Try to be objective,in the taxi driver case,he did not stop and was punished.Every force even the beloved Police of the West would have done the same.The author's remedy is to first ask questions before shooting,but from whom?,the taxi driver or the man who have already fled?. 

Parvez | 10 years ago | Reply

I am quite sure many remember the first incident. Your asking those at the top to alter the image that they presently have, may just be a wasted effort because politely asking will be scoffed at. Stronger stuff is needed if an impression is to be made........possibly a politician with a backbone ?

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