The recent martyrdom of two lawyers — one of them the president of Daska Bar — and one bystander at Daska by the Station House Officer (SHO) has shaken the entire country. There have been protests, reactions, overreactions, infighting, interfighting, and now, as ever, creeping general apathy. That the legal fraternity will ensure justice is done in this instance is a given, however, the one thing that we needed to focus on and which has been obscured is that this atrocity has amply demonstrated the dirty little secret at the heart of our policing system: that we place, accept, promote and encourage brutes in the police and consider them a necessity.
The question we need to ask again and again regarding the atrocity in Daska is that how is it that an SHO with 22 FIRs registered against him, including a previous conviction for murder — an SHO who absconded and thereafter settled the matter by paying blood money — was posted at a highly-sensitive post. It would be disingenuous to merely overlook this as an isolated instance where the SHO was there perhaps because of some political machinations. The problem is much deeper than just simple political patronage. The problem is with our general mindset regarding the police.
Admittedly, we rarely have anything good to say about the police, but we still consider them a necessary evil. There has recently been a spate of extrajudicial killings, yet we shrug them off. We consider SHOs a necessary evil, that is, until we personally have to deal with them. Or when one of them goes berserk — as in the present instance — and draws attention to himself, we get up in arms.
During our ongoing lawyers’ protest, I have been regularly told that a civilised police officer would not be able to perform ably as an SHO. I was shocked when a person tasked with holding the police accountable said as much to me.
The police are apparently our majboori. Who else is going to keep the house in order, they say. If someone civilised was placed as an SHO, he will be beaten up and thrown away by the citizens, or worse, just ignored.
This surely is not acceptable or correct. More than anything else, this is a myth perpetrated by those in power to promote their own toadies. The fact of the matter is that the police are an instrument of control for those in power. Our colonial lords and masters conceived the policing system as such. Each successive government has been guilty of perpetuating the system. To expect them to bring police reform is pointless. They benefit from this system, so why would they change it. Why would those in power reform this system when the system suits them, perpetuates their influence and is at the root of their power? There is also another fundamental problem with cultivating brutes. Either they end up using violence for their own ends. Or they get used by their lords and masters for their own nefarious ends.
So it falls to us as citizens and lawyers and media personnel and the judiciary to take a stand. Unless we change this mindset, there will always be abuse and violence. Unless we identify and root out the criminal element in the police, we will continue to reap the violent crop of brutes we have sown. In the end, if at all the blood of the martyrs of Daska can highlight and be the cause of eradication of SHOs with serious criminal records against them, the blood would not have been spilt in vain. The Lahore High Court Bar Association has already given the government of Punjab an ultimatum to identify and eradicate the criminal element within the police. If the same is not done within a month of the said resolution, we shall be taking this matter to court. The support of all is so sought.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 5th, 2015.
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