PUNJAB PUNCH: ‘Who taught you to torture people?’


LAHORE: “Who taught you how to torture people?” was the question Salahuddin Ayubi kept asking the policemen while he was being subjected to third-degree torture in police custody.

Surely the masses must have gotten goosebumps while watching the viral video and photographs of torture the mentally disabled man suffered.

Salahuddin’s torture-custodial death is a complex case which the concerned authorities are unable to resolve.

Also, the public pressure through social media made the death case more complicated, compelling the authorities to cautiously consider their options.

On the other hand, Punjab Chief Minister (CM) Usman Buzdar ordered a judicial inquiry into the matter.

In the past, many such cases of being tortured to death in police custody have surfaced. After it came to power, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government had made tall claims of changing police culture; claims that have clearly bitten the dust.

During this year, all over Punjab, including Lahore, almost 950 cases of third-degree torture were registered. Sources say 13 people died only because of the torture.

Is this not a big question mark on the attitude of the law enforcers?

While Salahuddin’s case was the talk of the town, two similar incidents of police torture were also seen in Lahore.

In the first incident, a person from the suburbs of Defence Housing Authority (DHA) namely Amir Masih was tortured to such an extent that his kidneys failed. Now, confirmed by the post-mortem report.

In the second incident, officers of the Gujarpura police station fearlessly demanded ransom from the families of some men involved in selling drugs while they were locked in custody.

When the case was taken to the anti-corruption establishment through the family of one of the prisoners, they unearthed a secret torture cell made by the Gujarpura police in an office of forest department.

Although the anti-corruption team got the prisoners released, one, Amjad Hussain, was tortured so brutally that he died the next day.

Furthermore, a woman in Vehari was hanged upside down while the police gave her electric shocks for their amusement. DSP and seven other cops have been suspended in the incident. But whatever happens to them after suspension–do they get penalised–remains a mystery.

In Pakpattan, Station House Officer (SHO) Ejaz, during the Urs of Baba Farid Ganj Shakar, misbehaved and harassed the locals present on the scene, in addition to getting a few old and feeble folks beaten.

When all this was going on, the Inspector General Police (IGP) went to the CCPO office in Lahore for a meeting regarding positive police attitude and reforms.

Around the same time, a certain Assistant Sub-Inspector (ASI) Asif was caught misbehaving with an elderly lady at the gate of the CCPO office.

He was only arrested and suspended after a BBC Urdu journalist, happened to be present there, made a video of this incident and posted it on social media.

Digging into the matter, it was revealed that the elderly lady had come all the way from Raiwand to complain about an SHO who had illegally occupied her house. But at the CCPO Office, she suffered yet again at the hands of the police in the form of ill-treatment and disrespect that was uncalled for.

These incidents came months after the Sahiwal killings, where a family, including minors, was killed in cold blood by the Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) on suspicion of being militants. The case has yet to reach its conclusion.

Maybe if they were held accountable, we wouldn’t see policemen running amok like they are now.

This is the police culture of Punjab, where even after continuous reports and investigations, no conclusions are drawn.

Whether the dead were actually guilty or innocent, cases of police brutality have never met any tangible result. The end is not coming anytime soon.

Even after the Model Town incident in which 14 persons were murdered, the police made a committee to work on police reforms and improvement of police culture but all got buried into files and nothing practical was even attempted.

Similarly, the Punjab Police, over the past ten years took no positive step to assess the mental state and psychological condition of police officers, while funds of ghost doctors in millions are dispersed from the IGP office regularly.

According to some sources in the central police office, “Police is spending billions of rupees in the name of changing police culture and investigation of FIRs, yet the results and performance are zero.”

The sources said that the former Punjab IGP Mushtaq Ahmed Sukhera had ordered all districts to assess the mental health of policemen, but nothing beyond file work was achieved.

Moving on, the present government came up with a mission to improve police culture and claimed that it would stop political interference in the working of the police, but things remain unchanged. Changing three IGPs in a short span didn’t help either because of ulterior motives.

Sources further said that the former Punjab IGP, who is the present Sindh IGP, Syed Kaleem Imam, was appointed in Punjab during the caretaker set up because of strong political backing.

After he left, Amjad Javed Saleemi became the police chief. He was close to the ruling PTI. was

Later on, the politician had some issues with Saleemi and thus he was disposed of and upon the recommendation of an important person from the establishment, Captain (r) Arif Nawaz was appointed to the post.

Some sources from the police department also informed that a cell established for police reforms was another half-hearted project that had failed in the past.

The current situation is that the Punjab IGP has close ties with his officers due to which the orders are casually shunned and thus people like Salahuddin, the John and Jane Does of society, fall like dominoes.

An official of the police department on the condition of anonymity said, “Our force [service] is failing miserably in using modern and scientific techniques of investigations and it resorts to third-degree torture as a means of investigation.

In order to prevent such incidents, “they should not be allowed to torture anybody in custody”, he suggested.

If the incidents of Model Town, Sahiwal and Ichra had been taken seriously and resolved, Salahuddin would still have been alive today and his trial would have been according to the law instead of policemen’s whims.