Killed and forgotten: Another ‘police encounter’

Published: February 28, 2013

many among the police personnel see nothing wrong with suspected criminals being ‘encountered’. PHOTO: REUTERS

“The criminal was killed in a police encounter”

This, unfortunately, is becoming an all-too common phrase among the law enforcers, especially the Punjab Police, which have become notorious for extrajudicial killings in recent years. Over 300 suspects were killed in police encounters in Punjab last year, and this month alone there have been five in Rawalpindi, including two brothers.

Ghulam Sajjad and Malik Jamshaid were shot dead during a raid by a team of elite force led by two security officers at the Katarian locality, to arrest ‘some terrorists’. An elite force commando was also killed in the shoot-out.

The way the raid was conducted, and the attitude of city police high-ups makes the operation controversial and raises many questions about the ‘encounter’. No evidence of any link of the two men with any terrorist group has been established so far by the police.

With this scale of corruption in and misuse of power by the police officers, one can easily understand why the killing of two brothers has been investigated with such laxity. No FIR has been registered so far. For the family no explanation is given beyond,

“We thought they were terrorists.”

And for the little child who watched her father die?

The stigma of being a terrorist’s daughter, because there is no way the police will even investigate one of their ‘paity bhais’(brothers-in-arms), let alone convict him in such a case without a kick from someone upstairs. It’s called brotherhood, or at least some perverted version of the concept.

Earlier on February 6, a rickshaw driver was killed in an ‘encounter’ on Tipu Road. According to the police, the deceased and his friend were fleeing after snatching a motorbike.

On January 23, Waheed Qureshi, wanted by the police in connection with the murder of six people in Gulistan Colony, was shot dead in another ‘encounter’ with the police.

While it is not unusual for an armed criminal to be shot at and possibly killed by the police, the level of respect given to the legal maxim “innocent till proven guilty” by members of law enforcers is discouraging.

Many people are killed in unexplained circumstances while in police custody for interrogation, usually while getting the ‘drawing room’ treatment. Torture is routinely employed in police stations, cruel and inhumane treatment is not unusual at all, palm-greasing has become a common practice, and if the right palms were not greased, an extra-judicial death sentence can easily be arranged.

What is more worrying is that many among the police personnel and even the general people see nothing wrong with suspected criminals being ‘encountered’. This is because of the inherent mistrust of the flawed investigation and judicial system.

Corruption is rampant in the police department.

In Islamabad and Rawalpindi, we have senior police officers being investigated for their involvement in drug peddling, carjacking, bootleggers and cops have always been hand-in-glove, and the word on the street is that brothels are functioning under the protection of police officers.

Now that’s called optimisation of labour.

Another reason for such horrible trend is the incitement by the law enforcers and judiciary.  Among the defenders of the death penalty is the belief that violent criminals should be dealt with violently — an eye for an eye.

All well and good, but even a murderer or rapist deserves his day in court. The police are responsible for bringing a suspect in, not to play judge and executioner as well.

As an end thought, if encounters are to be considered acceptable if the person killed is a ‘bad person’, why is it that nothing ever happens to the people who could ‘justifiably’ meet their maker as a result of an encounter, such as self-proclaimed killers and terrorists.

You know them.

They are the ones who murder governors while standing in front of a group of armed police officials and still make it out alive. The ones who attack the police and government officials, but remain safe because of their politician links. The ones government officials go to on their knees, begging for them to turn themselves in. They, it would seem, are the only ones beyond ‘encountering’.

Read more by Vaqas here or follow him on Twitter @vasghar

Vaqas Asghar

Vaqas Asghar

A sub-editor on the Islamabad city pages of The Express Tribune, Vaqas holds a Master's degree in IR from Iqra University. Before joining ET, he taught history and was also a member of the editorial staff at Blue Chip Magazine. He tweets as @vasghar (twitter.com/vasghar)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Sane

    That’s the reasons now policemen are also killed. This is the revenge by Almighty ALLAH.Recommend

  • Hassan Naqvi

    Police can’t kill terrorists because terrorists outgun our police. Terrorists are a fighting army, when the army cannot take on the terrorists, how do you think our police will take them on. So what’s left are innocent people. Police can easily kill them!Recommend

  • Skeptical

    If they cant catch them….they kill them!!
    All mobile snatchers are not terrorists…they might belong to that clan who is jobless….maybe they were unable to even have 1 meal a day….hunger and non fulfillment of basic needs lead them to do thefts…..Police should be capable enough to arrest them and punish them. In my opinion they should be given another chance if they actually belong to the jobless clan….but unfortunately they are killed in a police encounter.
    Thats another debate if they should do “mehnat mazdoori”…..but then again snatching mobiles is easy money!!Recommend

  • Close_enough

    There is nothing wrong to kill these merciless, heartless and pitiless criminal who are wanted in murder, robbery or any other horrific criminal action. I think Punjab Police is doing an excellent job to save the masses from these culprits. In Punjab when these looters commit robbery (dacketies); they not only took away peoples precious belongings but also rape the women members of victim’s family on gun point and then fled away the scene. If they caught they must be given capital punishment of life imprisonment. But you know our Judicial System; victims have to fight for years in order to get justice. Imagine the trauma they have to bear in this whole process. And there are possibilities that these criminals would manage to escape from justice due of lack of evidences and eye witness. In that case there are chances victims would not receive fair justice. Recommend

  • Parvez

    Excellent……………..in a land where law and order are almost non-existant, the law of the jungle automatically comes into play.Recommend

  • Silvester

    Mr. Vaqas Asghar, Are you a gooner. I’m seen you in the old Orkut forumsRecommend

  • Muhammad

    Every society needs a Dexter!Recommend

  • aj

    and thats the reason punjab is peacefull as compared to other provinces. . These merciless killers and looters must be killed immeadiatelyRecommend

  • gp65

    Vaqas you should not write a blog. You should write an OpEd. You are always thoughtful , thought provoking and act as a conscience keeper by being a voice for the voiceless. Keep it up.Recommend