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Encounter – ‘an ace up the police sleeve’

August 12, 2013

LAHORE, Aug 11: The provincial capital saw surge in police encounters in the last one month -- July 11 to Aug 10 to be precise (the whole Ramazan through).

The police authorities believe that whenever crime against property witnesses an increase especially in the last 10 days of Ramazan, the number of police encounters also goes up “to bring down the rising crime graph”.

The general perception is that the incidence of encounters picks up in the tenure of Shahbaz Sharif as chief minister. Mr Sharif, who is holding the charge of the provincial chief executive for the third time, had himself faced charges in a notorious Sabzazar police encounter case.

According to the Punjab police statistics, at least 13 encounters have taken place from July 11 to Aug 8 in which 22 suspected criminals and two constables were killed and six other police officials suffered injuries. Fourteen alleged criminals have been killed in eight encounters in Lahore.

The police claim that in all encounters police teams either came across the suspects or chased them. They further claim that the suspects, who were either killed or escaped during encounters, were wanted in cases of heinous nature like robbery, kidnap and extortion.

The families of two ‘criminals’, who were killed in police shootouts in Lahore recently, have alleged that the police took them into custody a few days before for interrogation and killed them in fake encounters. They also demonstrated against the police.

Generally, the crime graph has witnessed a decrease in the heinous crime category of the Lahore police in the first six months of 2013 comparing it with the corresponding period of 2012. It witnessed increase in categories of robbery with murder, car or other vehicle theft.

In the 11 categories of heinous crime, as many as 5,248 incidents were reported in the first six months of 2013, with a breakdown of 20 cases under kidnap for ransom, 18 under robbery with murder, 48 dacoity, 1,510 robbery, 156 theft, 40 car snatching, 227 motorcycle snatching, 22 other vehicle snatching, 819 car theft, 2,094 motorcycle theft, and 294 under other vehicle theft.

A senior field police officer, who spoke to Dawn on the request of anonymity, claimed that the police had no other option but to kill “desperate and hardened criminals” in staged encounters because of weaknesses in the criminal justice system.

He said it had become a routine practice that criminals especially dacoits/robbers and kidnappers managed to secure bails from courts due to poor investigation, weaknesses in prosecution and non-cooperation on part of complainants and witnesses.

He said those who killed people or raped women during robberies and the kidnappers who killed abductees with or without payment of ransom were being eliminated in encounters as a matter of priority. Similarly, the killers of policemen (during encounters) were not spared, he said.

There was always a possibility of the police coming across criminals by chance or during raids, which led to exchange of fire. In such situations policemen also suffered casualties, he said.

Three alleged robbers were killed in a shootout at Kot Shah in Gujrat on July 11 last. The deceased were Shafqat, Waqar Ahmad and Allah Ditta.

The Muzaffargarh CIA police killed proclaimed offender Akram after he and his accomplice opened fire on a police team during a chase in DG Khan on July 11. Akram had kidnapped an EDO and killed a policeman.

Muhammad Illyas of Bilal Ganj was killed in crossfire with the City Raiwind police on July 20. His accomplice, according to the police record, made good his escape.

Three alleged robbers were killed by the South Cantonment police on July 28. The police claimed to have chased them after a robbery near Bhatta Chowk and later identified them as Nisar of Ghotki, Shafique of Sukkur and Yasir Butt of Chungi Amar Sidhu.

An alleged robber was killed, another held while their third accomplice managed to escape during crossfire with the Saddar police in Mian Channu tehsil on July 29. The police claimed that the suspects were escaping after a robbery when a patrol police team spotted them on a road and signaled them to stop but they opened fire on the police. The police fired in retaliation and killed one of the suspects, Riaz. Another dacoit was seriously injured while the third one fled. Locals alleged it was a fake encounter.

The Kahna Crimes Investigation Police gunned down five alleged kidnappers-cum-extortionists in what the police claimed retaliatory fire at a factory near Suay Asal-Burki Road where the suspects, all residents of Kasur district, were hiding on July 29. The victims were identified as Babar, Mohsin Iqbal, Imran, Irfan and Malik Tanveer. The police claimed that their two accomplices managed to escape. The families of two of the victims alleged fake police shootout.

Two alleged car thieves faced the same fate after they had an encounter with the Defence-B police. They were allegedly driving away with a stolen car from Y-Block of DHA on July 31. One of them was identified as Irfan Adnan of Bhatta Chowk Cantonment. The victim’s family lodged a protest by placing body at Bhatta Chowk and accused the police of killing an “innocent man”.

It was again the Kahna CIA police who claimed to have killed an alleged robber, later identified as Muhammad Yaseen of Kamalia, during crossfire near Jhaidu village on Aug 1. The police claimed the deceased had killed factory worker Rafaqat during a robbery at Kahna Nau a few days before the encounter.PO Shahzad Rulda of Bara Dari Road, Shahdara was killed while his two accomplices escaped during an encounter at Naulakha on Aug 4. The deceased was wanted by the police in four cases of kidnappings, theft and police encounter.

In another encounter in Lahore, an alleged robber was shot down by the Ghaziabad police in retaliatory fire near Tajpura Bazaar on Aug 5. An ASI was also injured. The police claimed the deceased and his three accomplices, who managed to escape while firing on the police, had committed a house robbery shortly before the encounter.

An alleged rustler was killed while his two accomplices were captured after an encounter with the police and villagers near Mauza Pir Ali village, Okara on Aug 2. The deceased was identified as Maqbool.

On Aug 8, two alleged robbers were killed in retaliatory fire by the Saddar police at Yousaf Town in Faisalabad. A police constable was also injured in the crossfire.

Two police constables lost their lives and four others suffered injuries in an encounter between the Elite Police officials and a gang of robbers in DG Khan.