LAHORE – The police in the Punjab province ‘encountered’ more than 375 times with the criminals during 2012 and killed 350 gangsters in the alleged shootouts, suggesting an alarming rise in the ‘extra-judicial killings’.

Sindh, Balochistan and Khyber-PK are not even in the race as these provinces remain far behind in such methodology to downgrade crimes if compared with Punjab, where the police had killed more than 350 gangsters in less than 400 shootouts.

According to official sources, only a few dozen alleged criminals were killed in encounters with the law-enforcing agencies across the Sindh province in 2012. The number of criminals’ killings in police encounters in the Khyber-PK is even less than two dozen. Though the Khyber-PK is the worst-hit province as far as the law and order is concerned yet it remained the safest region as far as crimes against person and crimes against property are concerned.

Unfortunately, the Balochistan police do not maintain the data of the shootouts. But according to the data collected from different sources, less than two dozen incidents of police shootouts with the criminals were reported in 2012 in the militancy-hit province.

The deaths of criminals in alleged encounters could be counted on finger tips in Balochistan, where the police reported a total of 600 cases of murder in the year 2012 including 125 mutilated dead bodies recovered by the police from all over the province. Generally, such killings are blamed on the law enforcing agencies, operating in the mineral-rich province to maintain law and order.

The police in the Punjab province also killed more men in alleged ‘shootouts’ in 2012 than the persons murdered in targeted attacks in the Sindh province during the corresponding period, comparative analysis reveals.

From January to November 2012, at least 193 were ‘murdered in the form of targeted killings’ in different parts of the Sindh province. Most of the people were targeted and assassinated in gun attacks in the port city of Karachi.

In Punjab, no less than 325 criminals were killed in alleged police encounters, staged in different parts of the province during the first 11 months of the year 2012. Most of the police shootouts took place in the provincial metropolis – Lahore, where the police gunned down more than 70 gangsters during the same period.

However, the targeted killings in Sindh had gripped the national media in 2012 since many died in high-profile attacks in which the religious leaders and political activists had been targeted. If compared with the other provinces, Punjab remained on the top, where most of the police encounters were reported in 2012.

Many police officers argue that the new formula of ‘killing the criminals to downgrade crimes’ had given good results in Punjab in 2012, where the police killed hundreds of hardened criminals, rapists, kidnappers and robbers. Some of them were of the view that the aggressive policing had left the hardened criminals with no other option but to leave the gangland or the province to save their lives.

This is like an open secret that the police killed the gangsters aggressively in Punjab and many criminals had to meet their ultimate end, a senior official said, who preferred his name not be mentioned.

During informal discussion, officials revealed that the police had a criterion to flush out the desperate criminals while its scope was amended from time to time. Once the provincial hierarchy or the top officers gives go-ahead, those falling in the ‘encounter criteria’ are eliminated immediately.

According to the sources, those gangsters found involved in robbery-cum-rape incidents and those who kill the victim even after accepting ransom are aggressively eliminated. Similarly, the gangster who kill a police officer during a genuine encounter or the criminal who murders the victim on offering resistance during a robbery attempt also fall in the same category in the police book and deserve to be eliminated in a staged encounters. The police are also ‘empowered’ to decide the fate of the extortionists at their own, they explained.

The sources believe the Crimes Investigations Agency or CIA police widened the scope of the ‘encounter criteria’ in Lahore last year as dozens of hardened criminals involved in high-profile robberies or bank dacoities were also eliminated. For instance, the CIA police staged an encounter in Shahdara area and killed three gangsters in 2012. Police claimed they were involved in bank robberies.

The police have to punish the most-wanted criminals aggressively because of the hitches and complications in the legal system, police officials argue. “Under such circumstances when it becomes impossible for the investigators to prove an accused person as a criminal in the court of law, the police have to flush out the criminals rather than giving them an opportunity to play with the lives and respect of the citizens.”