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In the line of fire

November 28, 2012

IT is unfortunate that society’s lack of respect for the police obscures the fact that men of the force regularly risk their lives in their attempt to carry out their duties in an increasingly violent country. They do this with poor training and equipment — a situation that renders them a prime target for a variety of violent elements. Take the example of Karachi, where, as reported, more than 100 policemen have been gunned down so far this year. Similarly, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, over 600 police personnel are estimated to have fallen in the line of duty since 2007. Many of the murdered policemen in Karachi’s case were targeted by criminal gangs, as well as sectarian and religiously motivated militants. In the past, policemen associated with the 1990s’ Karachi operations have been systematically targeted, reportedly by ethnic militants, but the sheer number of those slain this year is a matter of concern. Most of those killed were from the lower ranks.

Although such a large number of policemen have been killed while performing their duties, the Sindh police high-ups appear to be unmoved. For example, there has been no real progress when it comes to following up on the cases of murdered police personnel. What is more, when policemen are killed or injured compensation is announced, but bureaucratic hurdles are created which make it difficult for the heirs to claim financial compensation, while corrupt elements within the police also demand a cut of the money before the families have access to it. Such disregard for the welfare of policemen and their families results in a corrupt, demoralised force unable to meet the challenges of urban policing. While better training and equipment are important, what is equally vital is to assure policemen that they will be looked after if injured and that their families will be cared for if they fall in the line of duty. This may boost their morale and result in better performance. The process of compensation payment must be reformed to make the amount sufficient, while the process should not be a humiliating one that adds to the miseries of the affected families.