Amir Tehkal’s case has sparked a new debate nationwide. As George Floyd’s murder by the police resulted in world-wide outrage against racism, the Amir Tehkal case opens up an important dynamic related to police brutality. Pakistan has witnessed a number of people losing their lives in the hands of police. Although the instances are similar, but different Pandora’s Boxes have opened for both cases.
Recently a video went viral in which four policemen can be seen beating a man, stripping him and making him walk. The man was a waiter in a marriage hall and his alleged crime was that he abused a senior police official in an inebriated way. He was arrested by the police and was treated inhumanly, while one police officer still had the audacity to record this entire brutality. This is an action that also violates the Cyber Crime Laws in Pakistan, and its a shame to see the Police committing such heinous crimes.
History of Police Brutality in Pakistan
Amir Tahkal’s case is not the only one that has been reported by the media regarding police brutality in Pakistan over the past few decades. There is a list of victims who even lost their lives in the hands of these men in uniform. Most of the victims were found guilty in investigations which were later trailed by higher officials.
The list of victims starts from Hassan Nasir leader of the Communist Party of Pakistan who mysteriously died under investigation in Lahore fort during Ayub Khan’s reign in 1960. Another communist party leader, Nazeer Abbasi who also died in Police custody along with many other political workers from different political parties under Zia Ul Haq’s dictatorship.
The list continued with many incidents that came into limelight. From police opening fire on Minhaj ul Quran protestors in model town Lahore to the killing of two young brothers, Zeeshan and Shakeel, near Holy Family hospital Rawalpindi by police when they refused to stop at the police check post. Later investigations revealed both the brothers were unarmed and were returning from work. Moreover, the killing of Allah Rakha’s son who was shot dead by police in Infront of his eyes was another brutal event that has harmed the overall reputation of the Police force in Pakistan.
The Rao Anwar and Naqeeb Ullah Mehsud Case
When it comes to police brutality in Pakistan, how someone can fail to recall the name of former SSP of Sindh police Rao Anwar, who is accused of killing dozens of innocent citizens including Naqeeb Ullah Mehsud.
The most recent incidents of Police brutality from Punjab Police comprise the Salahuddin case (alleged ATM robber) who died in police custody and video of torture went viral on social media just like Amir Tehkal.
However, the Sahiwal CTD encounter case in which a family was killed Infront of young children was one of the most mysteriously outrageous cases to have ever been reported.
Brutality by KPK Police in Pakistan
The cases of police brutality are increasing in every part of Pakistan. The KPK Police has its own history like the rest of the Pakistani police departments. In 2010, KPK police opened fires on peaceful protestors in Abbottabad who were protesting against the constitutional amendments.
The cases of torture and murder in custody such as Amir Tehkal’s case and Police Brutality in Pakistan alone are huge in numbers. One such case reported on 3rd June 2015, when Akhtar Ali died in police custody during the investigation. His wife saw him alive in the hospital when the police brought him there. She gave an interview to the media in which she said, “I found him in a coma, with a broken skull, there was no hair on the back of his head, his nose was broken and there were scars on his face”.
Negative Image of Pakistan Police
Public reports and surveys by different private and government institutions demonstrate that police are the most feared, least reliable, and most hated government institution. The lack of accountability and corruption has made it difficult for people to trust the police. The local police play in the hands of local landlords, political leaders, and other influential society members. Police use torture to obtain confessions and during that torture, some of the suspects even lose their lives.
International Human Rights Watch has already pointed out many cases in Pakistan, in which the extrajudicial killing of the accused suspect occurred through fake encounters while the suspect was already in police custody. Such extra-judicial killings are the result of pressure exerted by the local politicians, higher officials, and other agencies. Rao Anwar was considered an expert on such fake encounters.
“Thana Culture” in Pakistan
The misuse of power by police and other law enforcement officials is often called “Thana Culture” in the local language. This Thana culture is one of the chief barricades in the way of justice. The system’s roots go back to the colonial period when Britishers came to India and build police institutions just to control masses and avoid their own direct confrontation with their subjects (Indian Public). Almost two centuries have passed but the system is still the same with no reforms.
Need for Police Reforms in Pakistan
Institutional reforms in the Police departments are the most essential change that is required in Pakistan. In democracies like the United States where the public enjoys liberties and freedoms, the public has the right to protest and can question anyone in power. But in countries like Pakistan, people are brutality suppressed by semi-autocratic regimes and that is the reason why we don’t see protests on such incidents.
PTI government, when it came to power, promised police reforms. The public is now looking towards the government to fulfill this promise. And the recent incident came from the province where the PTI government is in power for the last 8 years. This speaks volumes regarding the lack of institutional reforms in the KPK Police by the PTI government.