It is a game of numbers. Big numbers. Not your average 10s or 20s. That doesn’t make headlines or fetch rewards. You bring in 10 ‘suspects’ and all you will receive is a pat on the back. You detain a 1,000 and become a hero. You arrest 71,000 in less than two years and you are the saviour.
And then you let them go. Because no one remembers to follow it up. The Karachi operation was initiated in September 2013, on the directives of the federal government. The primary aim was to bring to task criminals identified by the agencies in view of the declining law and order situation in Karachi. From day one, it was clear that the operation will be jointly conducted by the Rangers and the police.
So far, the Karachi police and the paramilitary force have done a remarkable job of arresting over 72,000 suspects in the first 23 months. Of these, around 80 per cent of the arrests were made by the police.
The police performance report, available with The Express Tribune, states that around 61,851 suspects, including 1,802 murderers, 879 terrorists, 119 kidnappers and 2,775 robbers have been arrested by the police since September 5, 2013.
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The Rangers, meanwhile, claim to have arrested 10,353 suspects, including 826 terrorists, 334 target killers, 296 extortionists and 82 kidnappers.
Pat on the back
These figures have come to be quoted off-hand at every press conference, law and order meeting and reports released by the police. What is missed in all this rhetoric is that almost 90 per cent of these suspects have been released. At the start of the operation, there were 4,000 inmates in the Karachi Central Jail. As of today, there are around 6,200, according to a jail official.
Of the 70,000 arrested, most have either secured bail, have been acquitted by the court for want of evidence or were found innocent in the initial investigation and let go.
Inept or corrupt?
Besides corruption, a lack of focus on investigations is believed to be the major reason for the release of these suspects. “Drug peddlers, proclaimed offenders, absconders, gamblers, street criminals and robbers comprised the majority of the suspects arrested by the police,” said a senior police officer. “Such criminals always have good connections with the police and are able to get bail as the police investigators deliberately make weak cases against them.”
One recent example is that of Samiuz Zaman, who was arrested by the police in June this year for his alleged involvement in the targeted killing of Prof Waheedur Rehman but was released for want of evidence. At the time of his arrest, the police had claimed his involvement in several other murders.
Another example is that of Master Essa, who was released by the police on November 16, 2014. The suspect, along with three of his companions, Sarmad Siddiqui, Asif Zaheer and Nadeem alias Burger alias Mullah, was arrested by the Counter-Terrorism Department for providing logistical support to the militants who attacked Jinnah International Airport in Karachi last year.
Court takes notice
Recently, the apex court, while hearing a case against the non-disbursement of funds meant for investigations, observed that the level of corruption in the Sindh police has trebled during the tenure of Sindh Police IG Ghulam Hyder Jamali. The court was told that the police had requested for Rs316 million towards the cost of investigations, out of which they were given Rs140 million and a supplementary budget of Rs75 million was also released in April 2015. Out of the aforesaid amount, the police could not utilise Rs12 million. The Supreme Court bench also remarked that it seemed nobody took any interest in matters relating to investigations.
In their defence
For their part, the police officers blame the statistics on the shortage of police investigators. “At a time, each officer deals with dozens of cases,” reasoned one senior police official. “We are human beings, not robots. How is it possible for us to work on so many cases at a time and do a good job with them?” he questioned.
“Without a doubt, the Karachi operation has borne remarkable results and everyone should appreciate the law enforcers for we are now conducting intelligence-based targeted raids,” IGP Jamali told The Express Tribune.
He explained the large number of suspects who were released were let go for bailable offences, which was part of the law. “Another reason is that the police arrest many of the suspects on suspicion and release them after they have been found innocent in the investigations.”
Published in The Express Tribune, August 28th, 2015.