Amal’s death probe body seeks curbs on SMGs use by police

Updated January 17, 2019

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10-year-old Amal Umer died after being hit during an encounter between police and robbers in Karachi. — File photo
10-year-old Amal Umer died after being hit during an encounter between police and robbers in Karachi. — File photo

ISLAMABAD: A special committee constituted by the Supreme Court in the case involving death of 10-year-old Amal Umer in Karachi has recommended that police personnel engaged in patrolling to control street crimes should not carry sub-machine guns (SMGs), rather pistols or handguns.

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A three-judge Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar had formed the committee under the chairmanship of a retired superior court judge, Justice Khilji Arif Hussain, and assigned it the task of identifying negligence on the part of police and private hospitals in dealing with emergency situations and suggest reforms after it had taken notice of the incident in which Amal died after being hit during an exchange of gunfire between police and robbers in Karachi.

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In its report submitted to the court on Wednesday, the committee pointed out that Karachi had in recent past gone through a law and order crisis, which had resulted in the killing of many innocent citizens and members of law enforcement agencies. Though the situation had now improved considerably on the sectarian and ethnic fronts, the challenge posed by street crimes had grown serious and was resulting in the loss of human lives and valuables almost on a daily basis.

Personnel should be trained to use appropriate force in tricky situations, says its report

It appeared that police had not prepared for the transitory phase and were still in the mode of fighting terrorism, said the report.

The committee recommended that SMGs should be authorised for use only in sensitive areas of Karachi, including some parts of South Zone (Lyari) and West Zone, in proportion to the threats posed.

The squads deputed to protect police officers, judges and ministers should carry only one SMG per vehicle and the remaining policemen should be armed with pistols, said the report. There is a specialised unit, namely the Rapid Response Force, which should be available and duty-bound for dealing with high-risk situations, which involve the use of heavy arms and ammunition.

The committee said that police personnel lacked training, adding that Karachi was highly urbanised and in the event of a police encounter a highly trained force was required. But it has been observed that police officers do not take refresher courses and/or conduct firing practice regularly.

As a result, they end up causing collateral damage, in the shape of loss of lives of innocent citizens. Therefore, there must be a mandatory requirement of refresher courses on a regular basis (at least after every six months). The committee pointed out that training with regard to urban policing was also required. The personnel should be able to assess the appropriate amount of force that should be used in a situation. The culture of carrying out encounters should be discouraged.

The personnel should also be trained to use measures other than using arms and ammunition wherever possible. Training to take calculated and proportionate decisions was pertinent, especially in urban policing, said the committee’s report.

The committee noted that police stations were still maintaining a manual system for recording arms and ammunition, which could be manipulated in case of a serious incident. Therefore, the inventories of arms and ammunition at the headquarters and police stations should be computerised and biometric machines should be installed to make the officials accountable.

The IBS facility should be used to identify the weapons and ammunition that are given to the personnel. In this way the weapon that is issued could be easily traced whenever it is fired or goes missing.

Weapon recognition should be coordinated with the biometrics to keep a complete check on who the weapon was allotted to, how much ammunition was used, etc.

The committee also highlighted the poor management of the operational and investigation branches of police. The additional SHO concerned was involved in misappropriation of recovered amount from the culprits. The official who had prepared the recovery memo was guilty of corruption and should be awarded severe punishment, it said.

The investigation officers failed to arrest the co-accused for a very long time, even though he could have easily been traced out earlier. The investigation branch required refresher courses and better supervision of senior officers in such cases.

A comprehensive strategy was required to implement the Smart City Project in Karachi. Unfortunately for a city of 22 million people, only 2,300 cameras were operational in the city and police had to rely on private CCTV footages, said the committee. The cameras available often produced footage of poor quality.

It was high time the project was implemented in the light of existing Supreme Court orders, said the committee. “It is recommended that the legislature enact (if need be) and/or the Sindh government enforces a mandatory requirement wherein all commercial entities have to install cameras on all outside corners of their shops, establishment, building, etc, at their cost of installation, running and maintenance,” read its report.

Cameras in residential areas should be the responsibility of the Sindh government and lack of this facility should attract penal provisions such as a fine on the owner/owners, the committee added.

Published in Dawn, January 17th, 2019