Editorial by Dawn Newspaper
12 December 2009
Illegal detention is common in Pakistan and the police force is by no means the only culprit. Intelligence agencies have ‘disappeared’ people across the country on various pretexts and the existence of private jails, particularly in Sindh, is also a fact.
So it comes as no surprise that four people were found on Thursday in the unlawful custody of a police special investigation unit in Karachi’s Saddar area.
But here’s the shocker.
The raid on the Saddar SIU was conducted by a head bailiff armed with court orders for the recovery of the missing persons. Yet the police personnel there refused to hand over the detainees — who had not been officially charged with any crime — insisting that the ‘suspects’ would be produced in court the next day.
Claims by the victims’ relatives that the police are trying to extort money cannot be verified at this stage but that is immaterial in any case. The fact of the matter is that the SIU brazenly disobeyed a court order and the bailiff was left with no option but to leave without the detainees.
Clearly there are many among our police force who consider themselves to be above the law, come what may.
Ask almost any poor or middle-class person if they see the police as protectors and the answer will be in the negative. Instead, the common complaint is that the police’s primary focus is on collecting bribes for minor offences and even framing innocent people in order to extort ransom money.
It is also no secret that anyone with a few thousand rupees in his pocket can convince police officers to pick up a person who may be guilty of nothing more than real or perceived insult.
Personal scores are settled every day in this country with the police acting as middlemen with sticky fingers.
A police station is the first port of call for anyone seeking justice.
But such is the reputation of the force that law-abiding individuals without sufficient clout often suffer in silence instead of reporting crimes against their person or property. Will this sorry state of affairs ever change?