On the night of the 2nd of August, I was with some friends, of whom three were girls and one guy. We’re all college graduates, and were coming back from a late night Lakshmi Chowk Karahi escapade. One of my friends had lived most of her life in the US and had never had Bhatti’s Karahi, so she was super excited.

It was pretty late when we were coming back, around 3:30 AM. I had to drop everyone before making my way back home so I had a long trip ahead of me but little did I know that lurking on the deserted and dark roads was an adventure awaiting me that would keep me on the road for a good 30- 40 minutes and push me to write this piece.

I was crossing Davis Road, which is exceptionally quiet and shady (if you may) at that hour, when two policemen waved at my car asking me to stop. I hesitated for a moment but then decided to drive on. I am all too familiar with the ways of Punjab Police and what they want from kids my age driving around at that hour. I figured the best thing would be to ignore them and drive on. So I did.

I was about to reach the Fortress Stadium Bridge when a police van overtook me from the left with three policemen in the back waving me to a halt. So I stopped.

The three out of five policemen, who were not wearing any badges and had the top buttons of their shirt lose open approached me and asked me to step out of the car. I asked them what the problem was but they insisted that I step out of the car first and that I couldn’t ask them why they had stopped me since “hum police walay hain humara kaam hee yeh hai”. I said I wouldn’t and that they had no right to stop me in the middle of the road at this hour.  They asked me why I hadn’t stopped before. I told them that there are a lot of kidnappings going on these days and kidnappers wearing police uniforms are known to stop vehicles late at night. The policeman said that I’m being very clever with him, kept insisting that I had broken the law by not stopping, that there would be consequences for me and kept asking me to step out. I wouldn’t budge. I am much too familiar with their techniques (don’t ask why); the separation from the group of the most vocal individual, the little whisper in the ear asking for a little something to make their night because I wouldn’t want to keep those girls out on the road at that hour. I have a personal commitment not to give in to their corrupt methods. I have been caught several times by the Punjab Police for similar reasons and I have never bribed them (if you can even call it a bribe).

My friend, a girl, an NCA student, was sitting in the passenger seat, and having studied law (I don’t know when and why but she insists that she has) kept telling them that they can’t stop a car like that unless they had set up some check post. They said “Bibi aap na humain qanoon samjhayen hum police walay hain humara kaam hai qanoon ko janna”. Then they asked me about my relationship with the girl. And I, albeit having somewhat of a crush on her, said that she’s my sister and the rest are my cousins so as to prevent them from asking more provocative questions.

My friend and I asked them their names and we asked them where their station was, but they wouldn’t tell us. We even said we were willing to drive to the police station with them but they weren’t too excited about that prospect. My friend told them that they were required by law to tell us their names and where their station was. So the policeman doing most of the talking stuck his head further inside the car and said directly to her “Bibi aap jis tarhan baat ker rahi ho is tarhan humari bibiyan nahin baat kerti mardon say”, So I asked him, “Acha to aapki bibiyan kaisay baat kerti hain?”, he made a dumbfounded expression and my friend and I couldn’t keep ourselves from laughing.

Then he mentioned that this wouldn’t have been a problem if I had stopped before, so I said okay, now I have stopped and am ready to comply with you, what do you want? And him “Wesey teray sath bibiyan bethi hain tu faida oda chukreya hai” Then he continued to make fun of my hair (tied into a bun) and how he couldn’t decide whether I was male or female, and how kids like us would shit our pants if someone stopped us with a toy gun when they were so innocently just waving at us etc. in a nutshell trying his best to harass me.

At some point, after they had checked the car, and frustrated at my consistent refusal to step out, the driver of their van, played the bad cop and rushed to the my door pulled it open and attempted to drag me out which wasn’t so easy since I was wearing my seat belt. He kept slapping my shoulder calling me “Babar sher” and ripping on his mates for being too easy on us “bachay”.

I told him that he cannot touch me like that, and that’s not how policemen are supposed to behave. He pointed to his rifle and said that he if he really wanted me out of the car he could make me and do much more than that.

We continued to ask them their names and where their station was but they wouldn’t tell us. Instead they would try and intimidate us telling us it was their job to ask questions and not ours.

Then began the arduous process of phone calls and threats. My phone battery had died so I couldn’t do much. I don’t really know any government big shot anyway. None of us wanted to wake our parents up at that hour so I asked my friends to call the police and to tell them one of their patrols is harassing us and keeping us against our will. A friend dialled 0423-15, and they started making fun that we didn’t even know the number. So I asked them instead, but of course they wouldn’t tell me. One of my friends called his father who said he was sending someone to rescue us. They held us there for a bit longer, asking when our parents would show up and when the police would come. Then, perhaps suspecting that the police would not take much longer to reach there they finally said that we could leave.

Relieved, I drove away. The police helpline called us back and we told them about the whole incident in detail. They agreed that the patrol was not following the law and that they had no right to stop and harass us.

The whole event left a bitter taste in my mouth. Sure, we laughed it off and thought it added to our escapade but I just feel that someone needs to put an end to this. I love Lahore for being safe at night, but it’s a little twisted that I feel unsafe whenever I see a police van or a police check post. The things they said to us, which included, along with other things, telling my female friend that she should be ashamed to talk to a male that way and threatening to beat me up if I asked for a warrant, made me wonder if we really want people like these, who are supposed to protect us, driving around at night with rifles slung on their shoulders, pistols in their holsters and what not.

Most people wouldn’t write about this because people have generally accepted this more as a norm and then there are those that are generally caught having something incriminating like alcohol or hashish or (in some cases) a girlfriend, in which case the police do have some leverage to harass the individuals involved. But still, you can’t expect them to follow the proper procedure unlike the army check-posts or the traffic police. They always try to squeeze cash out of you by intimidation and harassment.

They thought I couldn’t afford to stay there for too long because I had three girls with me so I would have to bribe my way out of the situation.

A friend of mine siting in the back has made a video of it. I would encourage anyone else to have been caught by the police at night just so they could make a quick buck to record this as evidence and to try and capture the faces of the policemen involved then upload it on social media under #ShameOnPunjabPolice. We need to put an end to this.