When the Okara police made a father and son rape each other
It was one of those foreboding nights; the power had gone out and I was sitting on the roof on my charpai. With the atmosphere already grim from stories of jinn possessions and cannibal witches, my cousin launched into a narrative about the increasing number of violent crimes in the area and the complete and utter ineffectiveness of the police, who seemed more and more interested in exacting bribes and satisfying their sadistic tendencies.
As the discussion grew heated, I discovered the true extent of the latter. Police in our area had become notorious for brutalising their captives no matter what the crime or proof of guilt. Common torture methods involved beating the soles of the victim’s feet and slowly rolling heavy objects up their thighs often resulting in paralysis.
Unfortunately, such stories have now become common across Pakistan and have completely destroyed people’s trust in the police.
The level to which the institution has sunk is exemplified by Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif’s removal of three senior officers in Okara for forcing a father and son to sexually abuse each other in front of other prisoners.
This despicable act brings bile up one’s throat and exemplifies the holier-than-thou attitude of abuse within the police force. Such a depraved punishment violates not only Pakistani Law but the very foundations of human dignity – the psychological trauma suffered by the pair will be long lived and is quite emphatically unjustifiable particularly given the lack of proof of their guilt.
Heinous crimes such as these by the law enforcement agencies seem to have become the norm and are often dismissed in a rather blas? manner by a disillusioned public. In a recent National Corruption Perception Survey, 84% of respondents who had interacted with the police service alleged facing corruption; low salaries and lack of accountability were the most common issues blamed.
The federal and respective provincial governments have made few attempts to combat the problem but immediate action is a must in order to change this ‘thana culture’ and enact meaningful social change in the process.
Enhancing the education and training of the police service is a must. The need for highly educated police personnel has long been recognised in countries such as the United Kingdom and the United States where the Wickersham Commission established by Herbert Hoover recommended a Bachelor’s degree as a minimum entry qualification as early as 1931.
The intellectual capabilities of new recruits must be enhanced with the minimum entry standards raised to FA for constables and BA for an assistant sub-inspector. Moreover, the academic curriculum of new trainees is outdated and frankly quite irrelevant- it must be reformed to place a higher emphasis on investigation, victimology and the treatment of vulnerable groups- cooperation with educational institutions and encouraging these to offer courses on subjects such as criminology will no doubt help the cause.
Respect of human life and the maintenance of captives’ dignity and rights must be a concept which must be incorporated and drilled into a trainee’s head until there is no room for doubt. As well as violating Articles four, nine and 14 of the constitution, the use of torture contravenes the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the UN Convention against Torture – both of which have been signed by Pakistan.
Appropriate reinforcement of an anti-torture doctrine within the institution will help put an end to the hundreds of civilians left dead or paralysed through police brutality, and earn the force the public respect which has traditionally eluded it. As well as raising salaries and the development of an improved organisational culture, a system of checks and balances with complete transparency is a must in reducing corruption.
As suggested by the Asia Society, the ideal scenario would include the establishment of an independent complaint authority as well as ensuring tenure security for federal and provincial chiefs in order to minimise political influence.
It can only be hoped that Shahbaz Sharif’s quick action against the offending parties in the Okara case and his words of their actions as ‘condemnable and shameless’ signal an era of increased accountability and positive change overall. However, it remains to be seen if the chief minister can fulfil his promises of a modern training programme designed and the complete computerisation of all police records amongst other things.
All provinces as well as the federal government must take note of the crumbling condition of the police service and ensure steps are taken which improve its effectiveness in maintaining law and order and thus earn it the respect of the populace as a whole.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.