Karachi Sea View: The sun, the sea and … harassment by the police?

Published: December 14, 2013
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'Policemen' at Sea View tried to convict me for supposedly driving an illlegal car. PHOTO: REUTERS

'Policemen' at Sea View tried to convict me for supposedly driving an illegal car.  PHOTO: REUTERS 'Policemen' at Sea View tried to convict me for supposedly driving an illlegal car.  PHOTO: REUTERS

A friend of mine was visiting from Lahore and asked me to show him the beach in Karachi. So, on a nice Sunday afternoon, December 1, 2013, I took him to the Clifton beach. He had never seen the beach before and was quite excited. Two of our other friends also accompanied us. I parked my car in the service lane by the beach and we started walking along the promenade.

My friend purchased some souvenirs made from seashells for his family and as we were walking back towards our car, we were greeted by three men wearing white shalwar kameezs’. One of the men said,

“Assalamualaikum! I am Azhar* from the Anti-Car Lifting Cell (ACLC), Karachi and your car is illegal.”

I was shocked, like anyone would be.

Firstly, they were in civilian clothes and secondly my car was definitely not illegal. When I asked them for some authorisation or identity, they showed me a bogus card. Looking at the card I said,

“If my car is illegal, your card can be illegal too.”

He pushed me towards the car parked next to mine – a silver Toyoto Vitz – with tinted glasses and pointed towards a handcuffed man sitting inside. He asked,

“Do you see him? If we were not actually police officers, how could we have someone in custody?”

I was still doubtful.

Why would I believe that men in civilian clothes, sitting in a civilian car were police officers?

They told me that one of them would accompany us in my car to the police station but I refused. I had been in a similar situation twice before when a group of men with fake identities pretended to be police officers/intelligence agents and took away my car, money and cell phone.

So this incident seemed like a sham to me.

We resisted and did not allow them to sit in our car unless they proved their identity. I told them that they would have to call their police van or that I would call them.

One of the ‘police officers’ made a phone call spoke into the phone in a regional language, which I understood, and called for the van. While we waited, I inquired what proof he had that my car was illegal. He hurled abuses at me told me to address him as ‘Sir’ since he was a police officer and also claimed that he was part of the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency).

When my friend and I asked him for the abbreviation to CIA, he told us to shut up.

An-hour-and-a-half later, a police van came. Instead of listening to our side of the story, the policemen forced us into the van and took us all to the police chowki at Sea View, Karachi.

They had realised by now that they could not prove that my car was illegal but they still persisted in trying to convict me. After all, I had wasted an hour of their ‘precious’ time claiming that they were not real officers. It had now become an ego battle.

When I confidently showed them my documents, they grudgingly conceded but then started walking around my car suspiciously, pointing at my car’s number plate, looking for a fault.

The officer-in-charge at the chowki confiscated my car keys and CNIC, and told me to get the complete file of my car from my house. I knew that I could not do anything since I did not have any contacts in the police force or the government. Although I hoped that even if I had known someone influential, I would have still tried to prove my innocence in the correct manner, rather than use someone’s position of power and authority.

Since I lived far away, I requested him to provide transport so that I could bring the documents, to which he replied,

“You are not some VIP (Very Important Person).”

I could not help but retort,

“Well, your salary comes from the taxes I pay. It is your responsibility to cooperate with me since I have not committed a crime and neither am I guilty of any charge.”

He told me to take a cab. I could not believe that he actually expected me to pay Rs 600 out of my own pocket for a cab. I told him,

“I am not guilty. The car documents that you checked are legal and the officer in civilian clothes has been proven wrong. Now you just want to push me around because a common man like me has proved an ‘officer’ wrong? Is this not harassment?”

After much altercation, I finally convinced him to give me back my car keys. But he still told me to bring the documents for verification, even though everything had checked out just fine.

He wouldn’t give me the car back if he thought that it was illegal, would he?

He wouldn’t just let me go and ask me to bring in the documents, would he?

What if I had not gone back?

But I did. Like the honest citizen that I am, I drove back home, brought the documents and showed them to him just to prove that I was right. In the end, he offered us tea (as an apology I assume) to which we refused.

Why would we have tea out of the money that millions of Pakistanis pay as tax?

On the way home, my friend from Lahore said that he had enjoyed the beach. I do not know if he was being sarcastic or if he thought that this would be an exciting story to tell back home.

As far as I was concerned, I know I did the right thing. It is not legal by any means to harass people in public on baseless allegations by people who are not even in uniform!

Our police force has come to think of themselves as VIPs.

They think that they are above the law and consider themselves accountable to no one.

They have forgotten that their basic duty is to protect and safeguard the public rather than harass them. After all, protection is what they are paid for by the public.

I understand if they had doubts or were suspicious. However, they should have operated in a professional manner instead of abusing their position and power. But who am I to complain? This country has bigger problems and this was just a small incident that happened to an ordinary citizen. After all, there are millions of others who are harassed on a daily basis in public by officials both, in uniform and those in civilian clothes.

If you happen to be harassed by such so-called ‘officers’ in civilian clothes, I would advise you to do what I did. Do not give in if you know you have done nothing wrong.

What is the worst that can happen?

It will just spice up your day and you will be subject to verbal and physical harassment by egoistic policemen.

But at least you will know that you stood up for yourself and your rights.

*The name has been changed. 

Danial Shah

Danial Shah

A freelance documentary and travel photographer and travel writer who travels around Pakistan for positive stories. He is the founder of travel blog iExplorePakistan.com. He is an activist of civil rights and social justice for all. He tweets as @DanialShah_ (twitter.com/danialshah_)

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

  • Black ops

    Most of the police men in Pakistan are either corrupt or otherwise criminal themselves. This experience just emphasized it again.Recommend

  • Annony

    Everyone living that side of the bridge grows up to this until they learn to rely on goons for protection – Its a vicious cycle.Recommend

  • Farman

    So sad to read this story and I’m amazed our police has found a new way to harassed Karachiites. At least they didn’t asked you about the bribe and let you go. I don’t know when they will stop thinking that they are not above the law.Recommend

  • KAMAL KHAN

    SO NOW TO ACCOUNTABILITY. ITS THE JOB OF OUR MEDIA AND NOW ESPECIALLY TRIBUNE/EXPRESS NEWS TO COVER THIS AND EXPOSE IT.Recommend

  • taimoor

    thankyou for standing up to them!Recommend

  • Asad Khan

    ….You should have not given him documents and even refuse to sit in the van and said I would drive and the van should do escort.
    Further, you should not stay longer in the check-post, the Check-post is installed to stop snatching & anti social behavior cuz most of the youngsters bring cars w/o license and papers and they have fell victim of car snatching at sea-view in the past.

    You must report in person to the DIG Operations in Central Police Office (Karachi) this incident with your friend accompanying you as witness and give all the details of “officer(s)” and lodge a formal complain of Hideous Corpse and then should see the fun.

    (Sr. officers are very fond of having any complain of their subordinates) Trust me, this is coming from a been there done that person.

    Just putting in Tribune does not gonna help you much.

    regards,Recommend

  • Rabia

    Well written, and you’re right, time to take matters in our hands.Recommend

  • http://www.incpak.com/ INCPak

    You did the right thing and police is mafia unstoppable one.Recommend

  • Bonga

    Near the Karsaz flyover, at the Shahra-e-Faisal side, two police officers in their black & khaki uniform stop every possible car, rickshaws and taxis. They ask for the driver’s license and car documentations, although they are not authorized to ask for the license. Its only the traffic police that can ask for the driver’s license. And since they know that many of the rickshaw drivers and other people do not have one, they take bribe and let them go. The same is happening near nursery flyover. Police have forgotten their duties, hence the crime rate in karachi. And the funny thing is, that they paint over the walls saying “Police Day Manaya Jaye” lolRecommend

  • Sabih Shad

    I’m not sure but is it possible to charge the people at the chowki for damages?Recommend

  • Kublai

    Something not very kosher about this story. Some of the narrative
    is strange.[ The author could have been taken into an alley and
    shot dead.] ..’if my card is illegal than your identity can be illegal too’
    You don’t say this to a thug. I don’t buy the story. Or the athorr is naive.Recommend

  • Sharjeel ashraf

    Epic, We need man like you, to change Pakistan.Recommend

  • Parvez

    Until and unless the police are not depoliticised things like this will keep on happening.
    Our politicians are weak and corrupt…….they need the police to do dirty work and also protect the dirty work they themselves do. This is an old story and nothing has been done to correct this over the years and it looks like nothing will be done.
    Agree with @Rabia…….time to take matters into our own hands.Recommend

  • Noman Ansari

    This made me so angry. You did well.Recommend

  • gp65

    Kudos to you for standing up for your rights. A trip to the beach should not result in a trip to the police station.Recommend

  • Maxwood

    it is all lieRecommend