LAHORE - The Crime Investigation Agency of the Lahore Police has virtually become a cash investigation agency, thanks to the top police officers who have given a freehand to tainted investigators.

A fresh case of non-stop torture during weeks-long unlawful detention of two suspected robbers is the latest example of CIA’s performance. It appears that CIA, special wing of the Punjab Police that deals with organised crime, is more interested in cash-related cases rather than focusing on heinous crimes.

Hafiz Ejaz and Abbas, both salesmen by profession, have been facing police torture at the CIA’s Ghaziabad cell for more than 32 days. They were taken into custody by CIA Civil Lines in connection with a robbery incident on January 3. The arrests were never mentioned in the police record.

After weeks-long ‘interrogation’ at the torture cell, the CIA Civil Lines demanded cash from relatives of the suspected robbers in the name of recovery of “looted items.” The relatives met the suspects at the office of the in-charge of CIA Civil Lines and they were shocked to see marks of brutal torture on the body parts of the men, aged 22 and 24.

Police halted torture on one of the suspects after the issue was brought into the notice of a senior police officer, additional IG. The officer also witnessed video clips shot by relatives of the suspects using mobile phones and ordered a verbal inquiry into the matter.

According to the relatives, the police arrested Abbas on January 3 at his house. Ejaz was later produced before the CIA police by his parents for interrogation. The police continued non-stop torture on both young men. On the other hand, the policemen pressed the parents to pay them the cash they needed as evidence against the criminals.

These salesmen are being grilled in connection with a robbery since January 3. Mustafa, a close relative of Ejaz, said that Ejaz was being interrogated in a robbery case in which he himself was robbed of his motorcycle by unidentified gunmen. The police implicated Ejaz in the case instead of arresting the culprits, he said.

Ahmed, a relative of Abbas, said it took them at least 15 days to trace whereabouts of Abbas. “The police raided our house and snatched Abbas on January 3. We visited many police stations, but failed to find Ejaz.”

According to Ahmad, they were contacted by a police officer a few weeks later. “An official of the CIA Civil Lines contacted us by phone and asked his parents to arrange cash,” he said. The relatives of Ejaz and Abbas say the police failed to establish involvement of the suspects in the robbery case though they had been keeping them in illegal detention for more than a month now.

When contacted, the inspector, who runs this CIA cell on the premises of Ghaziabad Police Station, told this reporter that both men were interrogated in connection with a robbery case. “They have confessed to the crime. They are 110 percent the real culprits,” the officer claimed.

He denied reports of ruthless torture on the suspects but was left speechless when asked about the video clips. “I know the policeman who made this video. This is not fair,” he commented. He went on to say, “Police frequently keep robbery suspects in (unlawful) detention with the consent of the SP, SSP, and DIG concerned.” “The top police officers know this,” he replied when asked about the four-week long unlawful detention of Abbas and Ejaz.

The investigator also claimed that he had got call-data of the criminals to establish their involvement in this case. “I will prove this case,” he claimed.

A police source familiar with the development however rejected his claims. “If an investigator had some evidence in his hand, why did not he produce the suspects in the court? Many policemen keep suspects in unlawful custody to extort money, not to collect evidence. This is quite a common practice here,” a Lahore police investigator said and preferred his name not be mentioned. He said that sometime “very important” suspects were detained by police at private cells for weeks and months with the consent of top police officers.

But in most of the cases, he said, police investigators misuse their authority. “Most of the suspects in minor cases are also kept in unlawful detention. But without the knowledge of the senior officers,” he said.

When contacted, Lahore’s CIA SP Nadeem Abbas said he would be able to respond to the reports only after checking the issue from the concerned police cell. He asked this reporter to text him details of the case so that could check it. The SP was given all relevant information through a text message.

“Let me check it, first,” he said and promised that he would respond very soon. But he did not attend the phone calls despite repeated attempts. Later, a few questions were also sent to the officer on his cell phone but he did not turn up. When contacted, Lahore DIG (Investigation) Sultan Chaudhry said, “I will check the issue.” Also, he suggested this reporter to contact him at his office.

SP Abbas, however, late Sunday night responded to this reporter through an SMS. He said, “Accused arrested, are produced in court within 24 hours for seeking remand and further investigation. No accused are kept in custody without formal arrest. Arrested accused are interrogated in accordance with the law for the collection of evidence against them. Police is bound to work within parameters of law. The subject case shall also be treated in accordance with law,” the officer insists.

Extrajudicial killings, forced disappearances, unlawful detentions and brutal torture on suspected criminals during unlawful custody still remain hallmarks of Punjab Police.

The Punjab Police inspector general last week warned his force that there would be zero tolerance to custodial killings, illegal detentions and torture. The officer said that strict disciplinary action would be taken against policemen using delaying tactics during the legal proceedings.

IGP Arif Nawaz Khan, presiding over the Regional Police Officers’ conference at the Central Police Office, said that torture on suspected criminals and illegal detention “shall not be tolerated” and a strict legal and departmental action would be taken against officials found involved in such practice.

POLICE ARE NOT THE JUDGE:

A senior officer last week told the police investigators that they should not become judges while investigating the criminal cases, particularly child abuse, rape and murder cases. DIG Sultan Chaudhry asked the investigators to visit the crime scene soon after the police report a rape case.

“Nobody should judge any case on his own and no one should build any opinion (before the investigation). Only, evidence should be collected so that challans of cases are sent to courts accordingly,” the DIG stated at the launch of the Gender Based Violence Cell at the Investigation Headquarters on Saturday.

 

 

ASHRAF JAVED