Recourse to encounters

Published January 15, 2015
Security of a mortuary is tightening as the bodies of 
militants associated with a terrorist organisation are kept in Karachi. — PPI/file
Security of a mortuary is tightening as the bodies of militants associated with a terrorist organisation are kept in Karachi. — PPI/file

Apart from the presence of religious and sectarian extremists, Karachi’s law and order situation is also jeopardised by political and ethnic militants, as well as criminal gangs.

But while the city’s crime and militancy problems are indeed major and require effective approaches to tackle them, the answer certainly does not lie in relying on extrajudicial methods to address the violence.

Of late, there has been an uptick in the number of alleged encounters and extrajudicial killings in the city.

Read: Malir shut as MQM worker dies in police custody

The MQM cried foul when a party member died in police custody on Jan 10.

While police claimed the man was in possession of an illegal weapon and had confessed to several murders, other reports indicated that the individual was tortured in custody.

Following the man’s death, party leaders said the Muttahida was being targeted both by religious extremists and the security establishment, while the MQM shut down the city on Sunday in protest. Around the same time as the custodial death, the bodies of three MQM supporters were discovered on the outskirts of the metropolis bearing torture marks.

Also read: Four Al Qaeda men killed in ‘encounter’

Meanwhile, several suspected religious militants have been gunned down in alleged encounters over the past few days.

Two suspects with reported links to Al Qaeda and the banned TTP were killed by police on Tuesday, while two individuals allegedly belonging to militant groups were also shot a day earlier.

It is not only political parties that are complaining about the extrajudicial deaths of their workers; civil society activists have also raised concerns about the all-too-frequent encounters in Karachi.

Supporters of Sindhi and Baloch nationalist groups have also been targeted. It appears likely that some within the law-enforcement apparatus are using the cover of anti-militancy operations to settle scores and eliminate suspects by circumventing the criminal justice system.

Yet in a civilised, democratic society there is simply no room for extralegal methods. Especially now, with the creation of military courts — despite their drawbacks — the law-enforcement agencies have no excuse to skip the investigation and prosecution process and play executioner.

The criminal justice system surely needs a massive overhaul, while militancy in Karachi must be addressed through firm action.

But neither of these realities can justify extrajudicial killings.

The authorities need to fix the investigation and prosecution systems, at the same time making it clear to law enforcers that no extralegal methods will be tolerated when it comes to dealing with militancy and crime.

Published in Dawn, January 15th, 2015

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