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Fight for life

November 10, 2012

EVEN for a country where victims of tragedy and callousness are left to fend for themselves, the manner in which ASI Sher Mohammad has been forgotten by the organisation he served for 25 years is shocking. Of the 55 policemen injured in Islamabad during the mindless violence witnessed on Sept 21 during protests against an anti-Islam film, he suffered grievous injuries when hit by a stray bullet fired by one of the protesters. Initially given up for dead, he was rushed by his colleagues to the nearest hospital an hour later. With the bullet having shattered his ribs, punctured his lungs and oesophagus and grazed his spinal cord, doctors say that even partial recovery, if it at all occurs, will take years. While his medical bills have climbed to Rs2.8m, the police department has, as routine, doled out the sum of Rs200,000 and now appears to have dusted its hands off a man who put his life in the line of fire.

To whom shall his family — two wives and six children — turn? Does the state and society care that the life of a man mandated to protect the citizenry hangs in the balance? Ironically, a hospital owned by the business tycoon Malik Riaz offered to treat the policemen injured that day, but Mr Mohammad is the only one in need of expert medical care and is in far too fragile a condition to be moved. An intervention, most suitably by the police department, is urgently required, and ought to be given impetus by the realisation that this is not a matter of just one man’s life. As security in the country’s towns and cities worsens, civilian law-enforcers are the ones at most immediate risk. Paid a pittance and under-trained to counter the new challenges that policing an increasingly violent polity involves, they cannot help but be cripplingly demoralised by the knowledge that if injured or killed, their organisation would be loathe to go beyond the bare minimum to help them or family members that survive them. The police department needs to learn lessons from the army, which does at least look after its own.