LAHORE - The poor are ruthlessly punished by police in our society if they are caught after committing a heinous crime. But the law enforcement agencies back up the rich in availing the opportunity of fair trail.

The influential criminals are commonly being let go after very short prison terms of a few months or a few years at most, while the poor are put away for years even for nonviolent crimes and minor drug offenses. The story of Mustafa Kanjoo, who shot dead an orphan boy, is a case in point.

The Lahore police gunned down a security guard in a staged shootout a day after he killed three traders for salary in Faisal Town last month. The policemen took ‘handcuffed’ Ghulam Abbas to a car market on Maulana Shaukat Ali Road, where they sprayed a volley of bullets at him in the presence of many car dealers. Traders showered rose petals on policemen for ‘bringing the culprit to justice’ within 24 hours.

Similarly, a 16-year-old murder suspect was shot and killed in Green Town on January 26. The teenage victim of ‘police encounter’ had brutally murdered a five-year old boy allegedly after sexual assault. Within days, the police closed the chapter of teenage criminal and did justice to purge the society from desperate crooks.

While every heart in Punjab is bleeding over the murder of a teenage orphan boy, his killer Mustafa Kanjoo alias Cheeko, belonging to an influential family of politicians from south Punjab, is enjoying the servility of the Lahore police. His father, Siddique Kanjoo, was State Minister for Foreign Affairs in the cabinet of Mian Nawaz Sharif during his second term as prime minister in the late nineties.

His brother, Abdul Rehman Kanjoo, is a sitting MNA of PML-N.

The arrested killer was produced before the court the very next day. He is on physical remand with the police and he is ready to fight his case.

“The killers of my only son should be hanged in public. They are merciless terrorists. They are influential but they should not be spared. They have destroyed my life, my home, and my entire world,” these were the words of the ill-fated mother when she was screaming around his dead body but no one seems interested in providing her prompt justice. She has also appealed to the Chief Justice, Prime Minister, and Punjab Chief Minister to bring the killers to justice.

Expressions like “No one is above the law or “the law is equal for everybody” are written beautifully only in the statute books. The situation on the ground is entirely different. Mighty politicians control police through their connections in the government.

The policemen investigate and decide the crimes cases keeping in mind the personality involved, rather than the nature of the crime. The police investigations and attitude of the investigators towards the suspects was altogether different in both the cases, though the nature of the incidents was same – a merciless murder.

By the way, when the Lahore police had arrested Shan Khusro, the son of former Lahore Commissioner Khusro Pervez Bukhtiar, for shooting down his friend, the police were ordered to keep the media-men away from making footage of the influential killer. The police produced the killer many times before the court but no cameraman was allowed to record the footage of his appearance.

The incidents of extra-judicial killings are common in this crime-prone society where the provincial police killed more than 276 alleged criminals in 2014, thanks to high-ups for giving freehand to the police to decide the fate of the hardened criminals.

Unfortunately, hundreds of those killed in fake police encounters belonged to poor families. So, the police preferred to ensure immediate ‘justice’ instead of producing them before the courts. Statistics gathered by The Nation show that during the last four years (from 2011 to 2014), the provincial police killed as many as 1,016 alleged gangsters in fake encounters, as almost all them belonged to poor families.

The police in Punjab have set a criterion to flush out the desperate criminals and its scope is amended from time to time. Once, the provincial hierarchy gives go-ahead, those falling in the ‘encounter criteria’ are immediately 'dealt with'.

The question why the police do not kill powerful criminals is not hard to fathom since we live in a society dominated by the wealthier class.

The police have done a great job by killing a teenage killer in an encounter and by shooting down a security guard for shooting down three traders. But why the ‘police justice’ is unable to decide the fate of Mustafa Kanjoo. It is understandable since he is the scion of an influential political family.  

Why CM Shahbaz Sharif is not giving freehand to the otherwise very powerful police in this case?