Privilege and policing

Published November 24, 2022

POOR policing and privilege collided in what could have been an entirely preventable tragedy. A young man — a powerful ex-bureaucrat’s son — shot and killed another young man, an on-duty Karachi police constable, in an incident that has exposed the ugly realities of how law enforcement works in Sindh. Videos on social media showed the two men engaging in a pointless and heated conversation, which ended with one shooting the other dead. In a video of their interaction, seemingly shot by the killed constable’s partner, the suspect appeared unwilling to comply with the policeman’s orders and had also pulled a gun on him. From the repeated mention of his father’s name, it appeared that he felt that his privileged upbringing alone would get him out of the pickle he was in.

Meanwhile, the policeman, too, seemingly failed to properly identify himself, despite repeatedly being asked to do so, or to satisfy the suspect regarding which police station he was being taken to. He made the further mistake of forcibly entering the suspect’s vehicle and attempting to commandeer it. This could have created the suspicion that the officer, though uniformed, may be a carjacker or kidnapper. After shooting the policeman dead, the suspect was able to flee the country even before immigration authorities could be alerted. It reportedly took more than three hours for police to trace him, determine that he presented a flight risk and alert the airport authorities. By then, the suspect was already on a plane and out of the country. As is clear, this tragedy may never have come to pass had the authorities not allowed a culture of impunity to develop where the children of the rich and powerful feel they can easily boss around or intimidate police officers using their privilege. There is also a clear need for better training of police personnel so that they know how to defuse high-pressure confrontations, especially when their lives are at risk.

Published in Dawn, November 24th, 2022

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