Feb 24, 2009

Encounters of a kind

Generally, the outlaws are not captured alive in police encounters and are allegedly killed on the spot or in police custody
By Waqar Gillani
When it comes to police encounters, Punjab tops the list, compared to other provinces where the ratio of such 'quick fixes' is rather small, as per the data available with the AGHS Legal Aid Cell and Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP).
A closer look at the data shows that the killing of alleged criminals in 'staged encounters' continued in the year 2008. Moreover, a significant rise in these incidents can be traced in Punjab after September last.
According to the data, at least 300 people have been killed in such encounters, in the time period between January 2008 and February 2009, including 220 in 2008 alone, with the majority in Punjab.
It is also noted that, generally, the alleged outlaws were not captured alive in encounters and their relatives allege that in dozens of such incidents those killed happened to be in police custody.
According to media reports, a family in Lahore protested against an alleged fake encounter that had killed two 'robbers' in the first week of February 2008. Another five dacoits were reported as killed in the first week of May, in Lahore. Again, on May 21, the Lahore police allegedly killed a youth in an encounter. On August 19, the police shot dead three (robbers) in an encounter, while September 11 saw four policemen being killed in encounter in Kohat with criminals managing to escape. In mid September, five criminals were killed in three police encounters in Multan and Sahiwal. On Oct 21, four wanted gangsters were gunned down by the police in Faisalabad and on Oct 26 four were killed in Lahore.
On Oct 27, a family of Faisalabad protested against an alleged fake encounter that killed their son. On Nov 5, the police killed two robbers in Faisalabad, while the CIA (Crime Investigation Agency) Lahore shot dead two 'criminals' on Nov 11. One docait was killed in Narowal on Dec 18.
In 2009, the Gujranwala police killed two dacoits including one 'most wanted' Nanho Goraya on Jan 18. Two each were killed in Lahore and Faisalabad on Jan 27 and Feb 3 respectively. On Feb 15, Lahore and Okara police killed three 'robbers' each.
The rise in the quick-fix system of police, mainly in Punjab, under the chief ministership of Shahbaz Sharif, has once again started giving the impression to human rights activists that "extra judicial killings" are going on frequently.
According to the provincial police's own figures, 66 alleged criminals were killed in 2008 in 42 police encounters in Lahore alone. Almost 75 percent of these killings took place while the province was under the current administration's rule. Reportedly, during the previous term of PML-N, between 1997 and 1999, more than 850 suspected criminals were killed in what human rights activists termed "extra-judicial killings."
According to the HRCP annual report 2007, as many as 234 people were killed in police encounters in Punjab alone. In the latest move, Punjab Inspector General (IG) Police Shaukat Javed has directed all Regional Police Officers (RPOs) to hold judicial inquiries into all police encounters in Punjab.
I. A. Rehman, Secretary General, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), terms these encounters as extra judicial killings, and says they serve to brutalise the society in the name of quick justice.
"Only state has the right or authority to take the life of any body through a legal procedure. Unauthorised detentions, police encounters etc also lead to corruption."
He recalls how on his visit to Karachi in 1995, a family demanded the HRCP team to force the police to lodge a case against its son who was illegally detained in a police station for several months.
He says that such excesses tarnish the image of police among the common people. "The situation cannot be redressed until a transparent judicial system is provided."
Talking to TNS, Pervez Rasheed, the newly elected senator and special advisor to the Punjab government, said the government had already ordered judicial inquiry into all police encounters. However, he ruled out the possibility of such encounters being held on the directions of the government or the chief minister.
"We've seen governments, like the previous one, that devised no particular strategy to nab the criminals, including the most wanted ones," he said, adding that the present government has given special attention to curb the criminals.

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