Fake encounters

Published July 4, 2023

IT is time our institutions acknowledged so-called police encounters as murders committed by men in uniform. A report released in January presents startling statistics — 612 accused were killed by Punjab police in the last five years with the highest score of 186 in 2021 and 124 until September 2022. Meanwhile, Sindh’s grim state is easy to assess by the record of two SSPs. As reported in this paper yesterday, extrajudicial killings saw an upswing from July 2022 — the 10-month tenure of Hyderabad SSP, Amjad Shaikh, began with the killing of four suspects and ended with 100 ‘encounters’. These numbers shot past SSP Baloch’s earlier tally of some 241 in under two years. In Pakistan, the police illicitly execute thousands annually, citing resistance or assault attempts on officers as reasons in police records. But figures of police injury are scarce, and narrate tales that belie claims of armed exchanges. The rise in this menace makes for a dispiriting state of law and order; innocents are killed to either protect feudal or political powerbrokers, curry material favours or fill record books as officers race to surpass ‘encounter’ tallies, or settle personal enmities. While rogue officers stage murders, our failed legal system cannot be absolved, as such gruesome tactics are perpetrated to bypass it. A woeful aspect is the wild applause from the public; weary of legal processes, it is forced to prefer instant justice.

Glorified by some media as super cops and others as alleged ‘encounter specialists’ — Chaudhry Aslam, Abid Boxer, Rao Anwar — police officers embark on killing sprees with impunity. It is essential that the police hierarchy, administration, and the courts beat the clock with expeditious accountability. These crimes should have definite consequences as obsolete colonial laws, which gave the police a free hand, must be abandoned. Along with a toughened criminal justice system, law enforcers should have resources, equipment, training, confidence and encouragement to nurture a climate of safety and justice.

Published in Dawn, July 4th, 2023

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