Please don’t hurt me, Mr Policeman!

Published: October 12, 2010

The inefficiency and corruption of our police force has in fact turned into a joke. PHOTO: RASHID AJMERI/EXPRESS

A couple of days back, I asked a friend if police checks made him feel safer in Karachi, a ‘vibrant’ city to say the least. He said no. While I thought the conversation had ended, a few seconds later he asked:

“What sort of a stupid question is that? Have you never been stopped by them?”

That got me thinking. The inefficiency and corruption of our police force has in fact turned into a joke – though unfortunately, it’s not a funny one for those at the receiving end: the citizens of Pakistan.

Over the next few days, I asked many people the same ‘stupid’ question. Not one of them responded in the positive and answers ranged from a simple, emphatic “No!” to “It takes some getting used to. After you are stopped a few times you learn the drill.”

Personal experience suggests that ‘being stopped by the cops’ is uniform all across the country – and regardless of whether one is involved in a misdemeanour or not.

Given the fact that terrorists are increasingly targeting the civilian population, one would expect the most visible of the law-enforcement agencies to realign its priorities and focus on some of the more ‘real’ problems.

While many point out that junior officers are poorly paid and poorly educated, because of which their efficiency and integrity is affected, what about the senior officials who only qualify after clearing the highly-competitive civil services examination and a stringent screening process?

Who is responsible for coming up with an actual strategy to reduce crime? Even though the popular notion seems to be that the best way to do this is to bolster police presence through ‘nakas’ and ‘gashts’, many studies on the topic have uncovered little empirical evidence to back this claim. In fact, it is time we realise that not only are they not working, they are also a source of harassment for the public.


Mustafa Ali

A recruitment officer at Teach for Pakistan in Karachi.

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

  • parvez

    Our police force has over the years been politicised to such an extent that I have heard that for the post of a DSP you have to have a parchi from either the President’s office of at least the PM’s
    So why blame the police.Recommend

  • Zoha Waseem

    Keeping the police harrassment bits of your article aside, when it comes to counterterrorism, it should be noted that it was only this year that real initiatives were taken by the government to approve and accomodate curriculums of counter-terrorism policies into police agenda. Prior to 2010, no such changes were made. As far as my knowledge goes, it was just this year that a counter-terrorism unit was made functional for the police of Lahore, and only this year did the criminal investigation department of Karachi police implemented counter-terrorism policies.

    Before casting your blame on police officers alone, kindly take note of the fact that ‘senior officials’ of the police have found it repeatedly difficult to get grants and permissions from the government to make changes within the police system and activities. The de-weaponisation programme for Karachi which was started by the last CCPO in 2009 has gotten no clearance and no notice by the Sindh government yet, despite repeated attempts made by the former for its go-ahead. The door-to-door strategy of search-and-seize weapons from suspected houses in Karachi was paid no attention either.

    Kindly take a look at the citizens themselves before mentioning corruption. I, for one, felt ashamed when during one incidence I had to name-drop my way out of getting a challaan and my license taken away. It was not a proud but a desperate act on my part. My friends and acquaintances have done this repeatedly, often using more than one name, and more than just a simple threat. This is often because we know how vulnerable police officers are to getting reprimanded by seniors in the government. And this is because the locals of many areas in Karachi know how to pull strings and contacts. Does this not make a police-man’s job difficult? You cannot cast blame on just one branch of the government alone. Kindly analyse the whole system in itself, of which you are very much a part. Recommend

  • Yousra

    It’s not just their inefficiencies on the road, recent examples of Sialkot and Dera Ghazi Khan where police men were simply unmovable puppets and I am pretty sure there are thousand more disgusting examples of the sort, the only thing we do about it is sit back and comment, sigh….Recommend

  • Aamer Haque

    It comes as no surprise how the lady above takes out time to defend a corrupt system by which she is a great benefactor. Listing one incident of the former ccpo does not erase countless behind the scenes and under the table events that take place at residences of officials. Blame the system blame the citizens who out of sheer need HAVE to take recourse to sifarish and other means of help, without which NO official would even grant them the time of the day. Those sitting for CSS exams and those opting to choose being a policeman for a profession are not blind or unaware of how much they will be paid and what setbacks they will face. It is done out of CHOICE. No one asked someone to join the policeforce, you do it out of will and you do it knowingly of what comes with the package. There is a reason why despite many other career options educated people choose to join the policeforce. 4 year degrees abroad do not grow on trees. Multiple international trips don’t fall in laps from the heavens above. Designer clothes , flashy weddings, shopping sprees , fancy dinners don’t come for free. Its comes at a price – the price being selling your morals and your country’s soul! Spend more time investigating what actually does go on around you rather than defend the disease. Recommend