Tales from behind the bars

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Seven years in Kot Lakhpat Jail hardened him enough that he even lost the little fear of the law he once had.

 

The crime situation in the country presents a serious debacle for the Punjab police. Despite various operations, street crime, robberies, murders and kidnapping incidents remain rampant. Many who are observing the increasingly dangerous environment are saying that the government and the Punjab Police need to organise and plan a successful strategy to safeguard the ordinary citizen’s life and property.

This report details the personal story of a man who had been actively involved in Lahore’s criminal circles at a point in his life, participating in robberies and street crimes himself. He also served a jail sentence for his acts, after which he was released and has been living a peaceful and law abiding life since.

To conceal his identity, let us refer to this individual as “X”, who told that his initiation into a criminal life began with a few friends. Subsequently, he had to struggle hard to extricate himself from the bog of illegal activity he had trapped himself in.

X and his friends used to frequent a local gym together for body building. They were all jobless, and one day, his friend voiced his anxiety and proposed a plan to his companions: “Friends, we are in dire straits. There are no jobs for us, and no opportunities for making anything of ourselves. I say we rob someone and make some money.”

X received this idea with a lot of caution, “How can we do that? We’ll get caught.” It is exceedingly difficult, he chided his friends. “We’ll rob my own aunt,” retorted the friend. “She’s quite rich. My uncle is in London, only my old aunt and her daughter live in their house. I know that they have recently procured a plot of land, the payment for which lies in their home. We can easily go and rid them off it at night and we can use it to start a business. Let me scout the premises by visiting her place today, so that we can devise our plan.” The friend had presented a foolproof plan, so X and the rest agreed upon this mission.

X narrates that they executed the robbery with ease, getting a total of 60 million rupees which they distributed amongst themselves equally.

“From then on, there was no turning back. Once that money finished, we were far more emboldened about our next robbery. Before we knew it, we had committed 20 dacoities and were caught by the police for our crimes,” he added.

Once they were in the police’s hands, X and his friends were accused for an additional 20 robberies which they had not committed. They were beaten repeatedly, often to the state of unconsciousness. One army officer, whose house they had robbed, would visit the police station every day to personally ensure that they were physically tortured by the police, desisting only when X and his buddies threatened him and his family with murder.

After some time, the gang of four was transferred to the Kot Lakhpat Jail. “Entering the jail was an eye opening experience for us,” said X. “What we found most ironic was that the greatest and vilest crimes were being committed in the jails, right under the policemen’s noses!” he added.

It was in jail that the four also met Baali, the notorious robber king of Lahore, who boasted of ample connections in the jail community. People like Baali could arrange for anything even while in captivity: drugs, cigarettes, illicit sex.

“Jails are the place to be if you want to network amongst the criminal crowd of Pakistan,” X remarks with a sardonic grin.

According to him, people who serve jail sentences end up even more embedded in criminal circles. The police who wear their law enforcing prowess like a badge on their sleeve are actually collaborating with the criminal gangs in that respective city, X reveals. The police often have a monetary stake in the robberies conducted in their areas.

X spent seven years in jail. After recalling his criminal career, he thanks God for bringing him back onto the right path. Today, X makes a respectable living for himself, and has begun to regain esteem in society.

 

THE POLICE’S PERSPECTIVE: Corruption and misuse of authority are endemic to the Police Department, said one official who wished not to disclose his name. According to him, the meager salaries of personnel, coupled with the increasingly harsh financial situation often tempted the policemen to resort to unlawful partnerships with criminal gangs. Citing his own example, he explained that despite spending 30 years in the department, he did not own a house and had only succeeded in buying a motorcycle through installments. Those who dabbled in dubious practices however, possessed lavish houses and luxurious land cruisers. He added that a job in the department, given its structural flaws, exposed one to situations which tested one’s honesty and integrity to the maximum.

‘WE ARE DOING OUR BEST’: Commenting on the issue regarding policemen’s involvement in organising crimes, the spokesperson of the Punjab inspector general of police said that a few officers in the Punjab Police had been assigned the task of pointing out moles from the police department. The spokesperson said that the police department was being rid of all such officers who were found guilty of not being honest with their duties.

“A special committee has been constituted by the Punjab IGP who monitors the performance of the officers and works to ensure a crime-free environment,” she said.