Police excesses

Published August 13, 2022

EVER since Shahbaz Gill’s unwise words considerably complicated the PTI’s relationship with the establishment, the party’s leadership and their chief, Imran Khan, have been complaining about how certain nefarious elements are attempting to drive a wedge between the PTI and the armed forces. However, though they seem regretful of what transpired and now believe that whatever Mr Gill said would have been better left unsaid, they seem quite intent on backing Mr Khan’s chief of staff and have stopped short of condemning his bothersome remarks.

Mr Gill, meanwhile, has been remanded to judicial custody after spending a couple of days with the Islamabad police, which is investigating him for a host of serious charges including sedition and incitement to mutiny.

A new controversy has arisen with respect to the whereabouts of Mr Gill’s missing smartphone, which the police remain intent on examining, even though the judicial magistrate hearing the case believes that they have all the evidence they need after securing a video recording of Mr Gill’s appearance on TV and a positive audio match that confirms that it was indeed him who made the remarks in question while appearing on the talk show on ARY News.

The hunt for the missing smartphone has also seen Islamabad police commit some serious excesses, which has brought both it and the government under public scrutiny.

Acting on information that the phone was in the possession of Mr Gill’s driver Izhar, it conducted a late-night raid on a house where he was believed to be staying. Though Mr Izhar could not be arrested, the police did pick up his wife and her brother and booked them under a long list of charges.

Editorial: Gross overreaction

They were not the only victims of the police’s overzealous actions. Social media was awash late Thursday with pictures of Mr Izhar’s baby girl, who, according to some accounts, had to spend the night in jail with her incarcerated mother.

The public’s general reaction to the arrest was one of fury and condemnation both because the government thought it fit to arrest an individual unrelated to the case, and for the ordeal that the child was reportedly put through. In fact, the backlash was such that PML-N vice president Maryam Nawaz eventually issued a brief statement saying that she had sought the woman’s release and told the interior minister that, “there should be no mistreatment of anyone, even of those who once mistreated us”.

It is worth asking how the wife of Mr Gill’s driver could be deemed to have mistreated the PML-N in the first place to ‘deserve’ the kind of agony she was put through. The government would be well-advised to desist from using tactics that usually find favour only in police states. Crass thuggery and victimisation of ordinary citizens are unlikely to earn plaudits from any quarter.

Published in Dawn, August 13th, 2022

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