Taxi driver shot dead: The Rangers are not to blame

Published: July 26, 2013

Lack of equipment has evolved the Rangers' “shoot first, ask questions later” mentality. PHOTO: REUTERS

Most of the time, law enforcement agencies in Pakistan are blamed for corruption and for being in cahoots with criminals. However, recently, the elite contingent of Pakistani law enforcement – which is usually called in when the situation becomes too big to handle for basic level officers – has come under fire for allegations of extra judicial killings and for sporting a general “hair trigger attitude.”

The reference here is, of course, to the Rangers and the spate of recent incidents that have involved shooting at presumably innocent people.

The Rangers first drew media attention after they opened fire on an unarmed young man in Karachi and the most recent controversial episode has been of Rangers supposedly shooting an innocent taxi driver.

What most of us fail to recognise is the fact that the Rangers of Pakistan are not provided with the necessary equipment to carry out their duties. They do not have heavy body armour, ballistic shields, entry tools, armoured vehicles, advanced night vision optics or motion detectors for covertly determining the positions of hostages and hostage takers; rather, they are over-worked and under-equipped individuals who do the best that they can with the tools that they have.

It is this depravity that has led them to develop the “shoot first, ask questions later” mentality.

This would have worked fine had our society been stuck in the medieval rut that it had been trapped in for so long, but nowadays every second person is aware of their human rights and the limitations of law enforcement agencies. Whenever the Rangers are involved in any such incident, the whole of Pakistan cries bloody murder!

Let’s take Sarfaraz Shah’s shooting incident for instance, a 19-year-old man from Karachi, and focus on the fact that even in the news footage – which has been touted as concrete proof of the Rangers’ alleged misconduct – the youth is seen grappling with the Rangers’ personnel. Had the Ranger been equipped with a simple taser gun, he would have probably only tasered the boy; unfortunately, the only deterrent that the Ranger had was his gun, which he put to use.

Now onto the most recent event that stirred controversy – the killing of taxi driver Murad by Rangers, because of which some of the Rangers personnel have been remanded into police custody.

Murad was supposedly “gunned down” by the “villainous” rangers for no apparent reason.

A truly horrific incident indeed, but scratch the surface and the murky details will start to emerge. The taxi driver was told to stop; he was given time to stop and still he paid no heed. This behaviour is certainly not expected of an ordinary taxi driver. Even though the driver was innocent, chances are that it was this time that the accused was not guilty, to the Ranger, however, he must have appeared to be the embodiment of a terrorist.

No one wants a fast vehicle hurtling towards them. One tries to defend himself in any way possible and at the time, the Ranger’s mind probably told him the fastest way to defend himself, was to shoot.

This tragedy was played on the news repeatedly, hinting that Rangers were, in fact, the bane of Pakistani crime fighters. However, it could easily have been prevented had the Rangers been given the appropriate equipment to carry out their duties. Maybe some mobile barriers and long-range light sources could have saved the day. Had the Rangers been stationed in a secure post made of blast resistant material, perhaps their actions would have been less drastic. From some of the reports given to the investigating authorities, it has emerged that not even a clearly illuminated ‘STOP’ sign was present at the post.

With dismal conditions such as these, we feel vulnerable, then why question the men in uniform for feeling exposed? Their susceptibility to a terrorist attack, many of which we have seen flash briefly on the news, is alarming. Placing the fault on them for not having the required equipment to defend themselves from soft targets is unfair.

The real question is, where does our money go?

Why do we continue to pour money into military programmes instead of providing our law enforcement with basic equipment?

If we don’t provide them with the necessary equipment, they should not be badgered every time there is a mishap.

Correction: This blog earlier stated that the taxi driver’s name was Ghulam Rasul. The error is regretted.

Saeed Ur Rehman

Saeed Ur Rehman

A human Rights activist and self taught polyglot, Saeed is a freelance article writer and blogger.

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