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Islamabad police get busy clearing their cobwebs

Updated November 23, 2015

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The welcome process of clearing political cobwebs from the government machinery has reached the cluttered record rooms of the Islamabad police.

After the grand pruning of the Exit Control List, that had the names of tens of thousands of suspected ‘criminals’, some of them for decades, police stations in the federal capital have received orders to dust off all those First Information Reports, the ubiquitous FIRs, they had registered over the years and purposely sealed within hours.

Several senior police officers admitted that no law or rule gives the police the power to do so. Still they could do it because neither a law, nor any rule exists that stops them. All that the Police Rules and the Criminal Procedure Code require the police is to register an FIR without fail and investigate the matter without delay.

In practice, many FIRs are registered only to be sealed. Area Deputy Commissioner, Superintendent of Police or the District Police Officer does that with impunity on their own or on ‘orders from above’ – for the unstated purpose of initiating the legal process against the accused at will, if at all.

And all this is done in the name of ‘public interest’. In case inaction on a motivated FIR is challenged, the ready excuse is that initiating the legal process might provoke unrest or a law and order situation.

So innumerable such FIRs remain sealed - until the filer thinks reopening the FIR would serve the political or personal purpose for which it was sealed.

Last month, the Islamabad police received orders to treat the sealed FIRs as ‘pending cases’. And the SHOs of all police stations of the city are busy taking the rotting FIRs, as one of them said, to their ‘desired logical conclusion’.

That objective is to be achieved by trying to reconcile the complainant and the accused of the FIRs, or else declare the accused innocent.

“Most of the sealed FIRs are likely to be declared forgeries and their accused innocent,” said an officer.

The Secretariat Police Station has the largest number of the politically motivated FIRs, mostly registered during the prolonged movement for restoration of independent judiciary in the turbulent year of 2007.

Dawn knows about five FIRs which have been reopened and are being investigated, indicating the nature of the FIRs and the trend of the process now underway.

One of them, registered with the Aabpara police station, stated that Islamabad police stopped “people in Punjab police uniform” who had appeared late afternoon on the Kashmir Highway on June 23, 2012. When questioned about their purposes, the FIR said, they got angry and left for Rawalpindi in a huff.

But the tiff had a background.

Earlier in the day a large squad of the Rawalpindi police, anti-corruption personnel, and four commandos and women police had visited the Aabpara police to seek assistance in conducting a raid to arrest a fearsome land developer living in Islamabad territory but was flatly refused.

Not only refused, but the squad personnel were detained on orders from Islamabad police hierarchy. An hour later, the Islamabad police escorted the squad to Faizabad outside the Islamabad limits. The incident created bad blood between the two forces.

An FIR registered with Sabzi Mandi police station on August 20, 2013 accused an ‘unidentified’ person of sending abusive messages to the Commandant of the Police Academy from his mobile phone. But the present SHO of the police station says he is going to quash it because “it was a forged case”. 

Another FIR registered with the same police station the same year in November involved a serious brawl between the police and an intelligence agency.

According to the FIR, ‘a group of persons’ stormed the Sabzi Mandi police station and beat up its staff over a traffic police officer issuing a Rs700 ticket to a non-descript motorcyclist who held no papers but claimed to be the operative of an intelligence agency.

What made the incident serious was that the raiders arrived - “to teach a lesson” - after high-ups had subdued passions on both sides. All because the traffic police ASI Mohammad Riaz wouldn’t be awed by the motorcyclist’s mighty connections and the Sabzi Mandi police wouldn’t release his impounded motorcycle without due process.

Another case of violations of PPC 387 and the Telegraph Act, now reopened, was registered with Shahzad Town police on September 17, 2013. In this FIR, the principal of a private school complained about receiving a ransom note from the militant Tehreek-i-Taliban demanding Rs5 million, followed by threatening calls.

In those days such complainants were frequent. Police found some of them genuine and others fake. Shahzad Town police say they are investigating the principal’s complaint – almost three years after it was made.

Another FIR having religious overtones, and registered with the Aabpara police station in November 2014, has been reopened. It involves a leader of Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ) group, and his 250 followers.

They were booked for outraging the religious feelings of others, wrongful restraint and disobeying an order lawfully promulgated by a public servant – charges covered by PPC 188 and 341.

It relates to a rally by up to 600 ASWJ workers at China Chowk on November 4, 2014, who supposedly broke the law by gathering at a public place, raising slogans and making speeches hurtful to others and using a mobile sound system.

Published in Dawn, November 23rd, 2015