The report of torture by some officials of the Punjab police on robbery suspects in Chiniot has shocked the public and raised serious concerns about human rights being violated by the police in a democratic government and in the presence of an independent judiciary.
The media have shown the images of the police subjecting seven robbery suspects to public humiliation one by one. First, the debilitated victims were stripped and then ruthlessly tortured in front of a large number of people.
The media reports were especially shocking and led to public outcry throughout the country. As people across the county watched the scene in horror, the chief minister and the inspector general of police Punjab ordered 'strict' action against the police cops.
All the five policemen, including a station house officer (SHO), were arrested and later remanded by the area magistrate. The police claimed that the suspects, who were subjected to such an inhuman treatment, were wanted in street crimes.
It raised serious questions. Should the police insult and torture any suspect in front of a crowd? Is the arrest of a police inspector and four of his subordinates enough to eliminate the illegal practice of torture which has become so widespread?
As the media showed the images of the police barbarity, City Police Officer Rawalpindi Rao Mohammad Iqbal came into action and wrote to all the SHOs of Rawalpindi district directing them to give a 'clearance certificate' that they did not have any torture tools (batons and ropes, etc) with them.
One of the SHOs confirmed that he had received the letter in which the CPO had stated that though he believed no such instrument were kept in the police stations but even then they should check their premises and reply to him in writing.
Similarly, Regional Police Officer (RPO) Rawalpindi Mohammad Aslam Tareen issued warning to all the supervisory police officers to follow 'scientific methods' of interrogation rather than using third degree methods prohibited under the law.
He also warned that the SDPO concerned would be held responsible if any incident of illegal practice such as torture was reported in his area.
According to police rules, the RPO, CPO and other senior police officials should carry out formal and informal inspection of police stations and check their record. Is this practice being followed? Certainly not.
Although it was a good move by both the RPO and the CPO, apparently to discourage police torture, but would it be enough to check the illegal practice.
A senior police officer suggested that special police teams should be constituted to have a surprise checking in police stations at night and monitor the activities of the investigating officers.
Had the police officers concerned in Chiniot carried out surprise inspections of police stations regularly, the ugly incident could have been avoided and the chief minister and the Punjab police chief would not have faced such an embarrassing situation.
And had surprise checking and night police patrolling been done by the CPO Rawalpindi and his team of officers, it would have at least helped them bring down the crime graph especially vehicle theft which has witnessed an alarming rise these days.
The figures collected from the local police showed that over 142 cars, 93 motorcycles and 80 other vehicles were either stolen or snatched in different parts of the district in the first two months of the current year.
As far as the federal capital territory is concerned, hardly any vehicle was reported stolen during the last four days. And if you look at the figures of Rawalpindi police, one would hardly believe that a police force exists in the city as more than three dozens vehicles were taken away in Rawalpindi during the last four days.