“About 80 per cent of police officers in the capital don’t know about the basics of investigation and many are, in fact, criminals themselves,” observed Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui of the Islamabad High Court, while hearing a recent case. I, being a practising lawyer based in the capital, can’t help but endorse the veracity of the observation and add that although 80 per cent or more of the capital police officers don’t know the basics of their job, they are very good at extorting money from the general public.
The police system of Pakistan is totally rotten. From top to bottom, it would be very hard to find genuinely conscientious, dutiful and honest officers. More lamentable is the fact that the higher you go, the worse it becomes.
Our police are so unruly and uncontrollable that they participate in all the illegal acts of commission and omission without any fear. They are little moved even by the warnings of consequences given to them by the independent judiciary and courts on an almost daily basis; they just go on with their own routine.
The Criminal Procedure Code, which regulates the registration of a First Information Report (FIR) makes it imperative on the police to register an FIR immediately after receiving information of an offence, but I can bet a million dollars that you cannot get your FIR registered without any carrot or stick even in Islamabad.
Police officers will have a thousand and one excuses if pressed the mandatory requirement of law to immediately lodge an FIR — one of the major sources of bribes in the police department — is pressed before them. One, they will say that the police do not have the capacity to handle added workload if all FIRs are registered. Even if this excuse is true, is refusing to register FIRs a way to resolve the issue of incapacity of the police? Two, many people come with frivolous complaints; therefore, the police have to investigate before lodging FIRs. To judge whether the complaints are frivolous or not is not the job of the police according to law, it’s the job of the courts. The job of the police is to lodge FIRs, collect evidence and put that evidence before the relevant court of law. Moreover, the number of frivolous FIRs our police register when given bribes or put under ‘pressure’, if somehow reported, would be appalling. Here I speak from my experience as a lawyer for criminal cases.
Another major reason for not registering FIRs by the police is to conceal occurrences in order to appear efficient on paper.
The online FIR system introduced by the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) government has created hope that this decades-old malpractice of the police would finally be done away with. But, to my utter shock, the number of online complaints not converted into FIRs by the K-P police is alarming. Out of 309 complaints from July 1 till August 20, only 44 were converted into FIRs. On what basis were the rest of the complaints rejected?
The K-P government should constitute a judicial commission to inquire why the police rejected so many online complaints. If the fate of the online FIR system is left to the self-assumed illegal discretion of the police, the system is doomed to fail. The police must not be allowed to frustrate this brilliant move by the K-P government merely to protect their vested interests.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 23rd, 2013.
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