With questionable legality, the Islamabad Police on Thursday rounded up over 50 persons in a crackdown against car and motorcycle thieves. A senior police official admitted that most of the people picked up by his subordinates had committed no crime or done anything suspicious, adding that they ‘might’ lead the police to auto thieves. How and why they would do so was not explained.
Many of the people arrested claimed that they were daily-wage labourers and students doing odd jobs such as washing cars in various markets, adding that they were picked up at random by the police.
The operation was carried out in the Aabpara, Margalla, Kohsar and Industrial Area police jurisdictions.
Aabpara police arrested 11 persons from Aabpara Market, most of whom were identified as car washers by local traders and office workers. Three of the suspects were boys between the ages of 10 and 13 who claimed that they were students at a private school near Bari Imam and were helping earn some money for their families by washing cars during their summer break.
Four other suspects said they worked as waiters at the Capital Development Authority (CDA) and Supreme Court canteens and were looking for temporary work in local markets since the canteens were closed for Ramazan.
They also said that they were picked up only because they were the poor and could not defend themselves against the police.
“My only crime is poverty. The police never go after the powerful criminals,” said 10-year-old Ikram, who said he was in the third grade at school. He said he earns Rs300 to Rs500 every day as a car washer in Aabpara Market.
Arif Mehmood, who claimed to be a waiter at the Supreme Court canteen, said the police had also taken away his office card.
Muhammad Qayum said he had been washing cars in Aabpara Market for the last eight years and was picked up for no reason.
Aabpara Deputy Superintendent of Police Khalid Virk had nothing to say when asked about the basis of their suspicion on these persons. He admitted that most of those arrested were not criminals but said they could lead the police to gangs involved in auto thefts.
He said he had a list of around a hundred people involved in motorcycle theft in his jurisdiction.
Aapara SHO Asjad Mahmood later said that the men were booked for loitering, which is a minor, bailable offence.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 17th, 2015.