Feb 24, 2009

From all accounts

Common citizens are often witness to the high-handedness of police. Some of them share their experiences... Because everyone feared for their life

There is something about injustice that man by nature abhors, so when we hear of an anecdote about cruelty, it arouses hatred in us for its perpetrators. There are incidents that we never forget, irrespective of whether we were witness to it, knew those affected or did not know the affected persons at all.
The first incident I'd never forget is the killing of 23-year-old Haroon, son of Sadiq Mirza of Samanabad, back in August 1986. The police tortured him to death. The boy lived in my cousins' neighbourhood in New Samanabad. Haroon and his brother were my cousins' friends and I had often met them at their place. Somebody implicated him in a property dispute and got him picked by the police, at whose hands he lost his life. This is what we all knew and this was the story published in the daily Jang. It was then that the young people I knew inferred that police had not been the protector of the people but a tyrant.
Recently, I came across two policemen of Elite Force beating a lean boy, aged 20, at Barkat Market Chowk in front of banquet hall. This was on Jan 28, 2009. Time: around 11 am. One of them, a bearded man double the boy's size, was hitting the boy's chest with his elbow severely. At one point it seemed the boy would stop breathing. People watching the scene feared the policemen would kill him. Then they shoved him into their van but took him out soon, made him sit on a motorbike between two cops. The party left. Another cop got on to a bicycle and rode off. I found out that the boy's crime was bicycle theft. Do the police have the right to beat a person madly if they find someone guilty? I am sure a good part of the population has been witness to one horror scene or the other.
Only this month my former maid, Irshad, daughter of Farzand, was accused of stealing gold worth Rs 2 lakh. I, like all the people who know her, can say for sure that the girl was falsely accused because I have known her for nine years. The area people were all with her. They all gathered at the Dera of the Numberdar twice where the complainant party was also called but never turned up. Instead, the complainant asked the accused to come over to Allama Iqbal Town police station on the evening of February 3 to settle the case where the police nabbed her forcibly and kept her in the police station for over 36 hours.
Her husband was also there with her. Under what law did the police keep her in the police station? It may appear to many to be a regular procedure, but is it the right procedure?
I have been living near Chowk Yateem Khana for over 15 years and I have come across much cruelty -- blatant violations of human rights, the worst by the police itself. Here is what happened on Multan Road on the unfortunate day of March 11, 2007. People had just come out of the mosque after Juma prayers when two cars came racing one after the other. The car in the front had one person inside, while the car at the back carried policemen in civilian clothes. There were men in police uniform as well. At the Chowk, they fired at the man in the car before them. The man died at the very instance. It's a market place, so there was no dearth of witnesses. But nobody dared to go after the police because everyone feared for their lives.
-- Saadia SalahuddinA visit to a police station is the last thing one can ever desire. Dirty rooms, filthy lockups and toilets, foul-mouthed police officers - deeming everybody as a suspect - and the sight of paraphernalia used for torturing inmates are things that welcome an individual who dares to visit this most-dreaded space.
One may have read about scores of what goes on there but only a first-hand experience can reveal how fearlessly the police maltreats the citizens of this state. I can still recall the bad memories of the day when I visited a friend of mine in a police station in Jhelum district. My friend was previously an employee of the Punjab Education Department and had recently been inducted as an inspector in the police department.
I had barely settled down when I heard screams of a frail person being dragged to the courtyard inside the compound of the police station. As my host had not turned up, I rushed out of the room to see what was going on. It was such a terrifying sight that I went weak in my knees and my heart rate increased incredibly. About half a dozen strong-built policemen were beating a middle-aged man with whatever they could get their hands on.
Finally, the poor man was thrown in the middle of the compound as if he was a heap of garbage. What's more, he was made to lie on his belly on the ground. Without wasting any time, two policemen stepped on his legs while two others stood over his head, clutching at his hands and making it impossible for him to move.
As soon as the stage was set, another policemen emerged out of nowhere, with a leather truncheon in his hand and handed it over to the strongest policeman around. Completely ignoring the fact that there were people present there to witness this gory spectacle, the policemen pulled down the shalwar of the person and the one with the truncheon in hand starting beating him with the 'device' with full force.
I rushed back to the room where my friend was waiting for me. I asked him why he had not come outside and stopped his subordinates from beating up the person. He replied that it was a routine matter and that there was no need for me to take it seriously.
I was shocked to listen to my friend - who I had always found to be a very sensitive soul - say all this.
Even more shocking was his revelation that the man who had been beaten was actually guilty of attempting to commit suicide.
"Sir, this person wanted to end his life. The pain we inflicted on him should serve to discourage him from making a similar attempt in future," said a constable, with an unwanted smile on his face.
I wanted to leave the place immediately but had to stick around for a while to finish my cup of tea. On my way back, I was thinking if this dejected person had been in any other civilised country, he'd be provided services of a psychiatrist. But, in this case, the police had made sure his living conditions should become even worse.
-- S. Irfan Ahmed

It could've been me!
I used to work at our own Public Call Office (PCO). It was a hot spot for a variety of people – basically callers. I remember a person once telling me that if somebody came here to make a long-distance call to India, I should always listen in on his conversation. It was for my own good, he said.
One fine day, I was sitting in the PCO, waiting for customers, when I saw a fast-speed police jeep screech to a halt right in front of the booth. A horde of policemen alighted from the vehicle. Obviously worried, I asked the police constable what the problem was. He didn't say much, except that he needed to make a call.
The next I knew, he went to another telephone booth close to my PCO. A few minutes later, I heard a noise. The policemen were beating up the booth owner. They packed him into the jeep and scooted off. It transpired that some unidentified person had called up a senior police officer from the PCO and screamed abuses at him.
Seeing the policemen hit the poor PCO man made me shudder in horror. For all you know, it could have been me! Horror, horror!
-- Naseem ur Rehman

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