- Cases like that of Salahuddin Ayubi will keep happening unless there are reforms
The state and its organs are primarily responsible to ensure the safety and security of its citizens. In almost each and every country around the world, a policing system is put in place so as to maintain order. Some states even have further divisions within such systems, for instance, tourist police, anti-riot police and so on and so forth.
Naturally, Pakistan being an alleged democratic state, also has its own champions in uniform, out with a mandate to protect the citizenry. Even jacked up versions of the ordinary police in the shape of Dolphin force and so on, are seen racing around the streets of Lahore to keep the common man at ease. A hefty budget is spent on the training and running of the police force throughout the country. Elite training schools have been established so as to provide specialised training to the policemen.
In spite of the arrangements in place to shape up these men as the guardians of the public, the nation is occasionally treated to the news of a merciless killing at the hands of these very men. The protectors of the common man end up putting an end to their lives in the most merciless and brutal manner.
The basic ethics of treating a prisoner in custody are absent when it comes to our police, in particular the Punjab police. The social media has been in uproar over the brutal killing in custody of mentally differently abled, Salahuddin. The latest victim of police brutality, drew attention after his video of sticking out his tongue towards the CCTV camera during an alleged ATM robbery made the rounds over the Internet. The police had arrested him soon after. However, as fate would have it, the policemen played the role of the judge, jury and executioner all by themselves and ended up putting a stop to Salahuddin’s life by inflicting severe physical torture.
This isn’t the first time a man in custody has been killed. From Naqeebullah Mehsud in Karachi, to Salahuddin in Punjab, hundreds of detainees have been killed by the police either by way of a fake encounter or simply by brutal torture. By disregarding all norms of the justice system and trashing a vast number of constitutional fundamental rights, the police of our country remain hell bent upon acting in a manner they see fit.
A mechanism to punish false statements under oath should be in place. Laws should be in place to counter false testimonies and concocted evidence by the police itself. Thousands of innocents are languishing in our jails against whom false testimonies have been given by police officials. All these constitute one or more forms of police brutality that effectively destroys the public’s confidence in the state. To truly honour Salahuddin Ayubi and to take decisive steps, a Salahuddin Ayubi Act for the prevention of police brutality should be enacted which should cover not only laws against brutality but also effective methods for its implementation
In the immediate aftermath of such incidents, high level condemnations are received and calls are made for police reforms and other related legislative reforms. Yet, no practical results have been achieved. No deterrent is in place which would wean away the police officers from misusing their authority. No exemplary punishment has been awarded which would instil fear into the hearts of law-breaking officers.
There could be nothing more despicable than torturing a mentally challenged man, resulting in his death. The painful irony is reflected in the video where the merciless police officers are even mocking the victim and asking him to stick out his tongue. Despite repeated incidents of similar nature, no material progress has been made to avert such incidents in the future and they continue to repeat themselves, taking away an innocent soul each time.
Empty promises are made and yet no responsibility is ever fixed. The courts of Pakistan were willing to convict a former Inspector General for manhandling a Judge of the superior judiciary and went on imprisoning him to set an example. However, not even once has a senior officer been punished for atrocities committed by their subordinates. Rao Anwar, may be an exception however, that too due to his too-obvious direct involvement in the matter.
Similarly, even a common citizen travelling on a busy road in a metropolis has to encounter the harassment and rude behaviour of policemen deployed at various pickets throughout a city. Teenaged boys are occasionally slapped around the roads by an officer exercising his might. Ironically, such officers are mostly educated civil service officers having cleared the civil service examinations and undergone almost two years of training. It seems that the system inside is so rotten to the core that it brings down the aspiring freshly inducted civil servant to its dirty level.
In order to decisively eradicate police brutality, certain remedial measures are required which might be able to root out this predicament. Legislative reforms have been promised by the Punjab government but what they fail to comprehend is that the problem doesn’t lie in the nonexistence of a particular law but rather the implementation of the existing one. When the guardians of the law themselves are disregarding it, then a mechanism to make them pay for it needs to be adopted.
Firstly, to set an example and to make the top leadership reign in their subordinates, the highest officials should be taken to task for having their juniors out of control. Secondly, since the problem of police brutality, harassment, rude behaviour and ill-treatment is extremely common and quite widespread, it would be safe to presume that the problem lies in the foundation. Some serious groundwork is required to be undertaken in the training phase of the policemen. Ethics, morality and behaviour control classes should be mandatorily provided to all those aspiring to join the force. Thirdly, a regular inspection of the policemen’s attitude should be in place and their treatment of the citizenry should be monitored. If found to be tipping towards the existing one, an example should be made out of such officers misusing their authority and harassing the citizens.
Lastly, as the CJP has also observed, a mechanism to punish false statements under oath should be in place. Laws should be in place to counter false testimonies and concocted evidence by the police itself. Thousands of innocents are languishing in our jails against whom false testimonies have been given by police officials. All these constitute one or more forms of police brutality that effectively destroys the public’s confidence in the state. To truly honour Salahuddin Ayubi and to take decisive steps, a Salahuddin Ayubi Act for the prevention of police brutality should be enacted which should cover not only laws against brutality but also effective methods for its implementation.