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Probing investigators

February 17, 2019

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DISTURBING reports quoting unnamed forensic experts that digital evidence of last month’s Sahiwal shootings was tampered with, strengthen the impression that an ongoing probe into the deaths of four people by CTD officials will be riddled with flaws. As a result of the tampering, it is difficult to establish who ordered the shooting. Unfortunately, such manipulation is not unknown. Deliberately hiding or eliminating evidence — as in the washing down of the crime scene after Benazir Bhutto was killed — and delaying tactics seem to be a regular feature of our law enforcers’ investigations. It is no surprise then that few believe that probes such as the one into the Sahiwal case will be conducted in a professional manner. There are a number of otherwise open-and-shut cases that turn out to be near impossible to crack. The public perception from the outset has been that the uniformed men will be saved by the authority they belong to, the Naqeebullah tragedy in Karachi last year being a case in point. A well-known police officer was nominated in that case, but to this day, the now-retired officer has not been indicted and is, in fact, on pre-trial bail.

Those who are calling for justice in the Sahiwal case cannot be under any illusions in a country where everything can be blamed on faulty police investigations. It is, or is made out to be, something that cannot be fought, let alone changed. Judges have held police investigators squarely responsible for lack of a proper trial. The media has cried itself hoarse over the loose and unreliable investigation system, all the while pointing fingers at the police. Just the other day, the federal information minister himself lamented how the law in the country was only for the weak, even though the direct target of his reference was the National Accountability Bureau and not the police. All this makes the future even more ominous — indeed, the thought of those who are supposed to uphold and enforce the law turning out to have no resolve is deeply distressing. Given these factors, the trial of officers inspires little hope. The whole act of defence, the popular sentiment says, is as spurious as are our routine fake police encounters. The special protection extended to the law enforcers in extraordinary cases has to be reviewed before the system of police investigation itself can be seriously probed — and reformed.

Published in Dawn, February 17th, 2019