LAHORE - Incidents of extrajudicial killings or fake police encounters dropped drastically in Punjab in the first quarter of this year, as compared to the first quarter of the last year.

The latest police data shows that incidents of extrajudicial killings decreased to a great extent throughout the province during the first three months of this year as compared to the corresponding period of 2017.

According to officials, the police reported at least 26 ‘armed encounters’ with criminals during the first quarter of this year, while during the same period last year the police had registered at least 68 such incidents.

The police killed at least 24 alleged criminals in ‘armed encounters’ which took place in different parts of the province during the first three months of this year as compared to 74 criminals killed in similar shootouts with police during the corresponding period of 2017. Also, at least four policemen lost their lives while fighting criminals during the first three months of 2018.

Apparently, police halted the practice of “staged shootings” in Punjab after the country’s top court took strong notice of the murder of Naqeeb Ullah Mahsud, a young man who was killed in a fake police encounter early this year in Karachi.

Mahsud’s murder in police action had sparked outrage across Pakistan in January. The family and friends of Naqeeb Ullah Mahsud had accused SSP Rao Anwar of kidnapping and then killing the youth in fake encounter in Karachi. They said Mahsud was arrested by policemen in plainclothes on January 3 from Gul Sher Agha Hotel in Sohrab Goth and then he was murdered by police on January 12.

In February, Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Mian Saqib Nisar also took a suo motu notice of extrajudicial police encounters in Punjab. The chief justice ordered the Inspector General of Police to submit a report in a week on the total encounters conducted in the province and the people killed in the last year.

Reacting to the suo motu notice, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf spokesperson Fawad Chaudhry appreciated the move and said that PTI Chairman Imran Khan had already demanded a judicial commission on encounters. He added that only in Kasur district alone, at least 137 people were killed by police in fake encounters.

In March, SSP Rao Anwar was arrested from outside the Supreme Court of Pakistan after he appeared before the apex court. The police officer who had arrived in a latest model car was wearing a mask and looking confident as appeared before the top court after weeks-long hiding.

Earlier, the absconding police officer Rao Anwar had claimed that staged encounters was a policy of the police and several other departments including Counter Terrorism Department and Special Branch. The officer reportedly, claimed that the police were had been killing the ‘culprits’ in fake encounters as part of an official policy.

The extrajudicial killing of Mahsud also brought widespread condemnations, triggering national debate on the state of “human rights in the country.

On the other hand, the police data reveals significant rise in the incidents of murder, attempted murder, abductions, rape, gang-rape, and others across the province. The police reported high crime rate during the first three months of 2018 as compared to the corresponding period of 2017.

As per police data, at least 101,841crime cases were reported by police across the province during the first three months of this year against the last year’s 102,852 such cases. In all Punjab districts, gangsters robbed residences, shops, factories, looted families, motorists and even passersby and made off with cars, cash, gold ornaments, and other valuables worth millions of rupees.

During the first three months of this year, the provincial police had reported at least 657 cases of motor vehicle snatching while during the same period in 2017 the police had reported 805 such cases. As far as the motor-vehicle theft is concerned, the police this year reported at least 3,635 cases against 3,629 such incidents reported during the last year.

The incidents of murder registered a considerable increase in 2018 as compared to the previous year. At least 871 people were murdered across the province in the previous three months of this year. However, the police had reported at least 858 murder cases during the corresponding period in 2017. The province also witnessed a sizeable surge in the incidents of attempted murder registered during the first three months of this year if compared to the corresponding period of 2017. The police registered 1,107 attempted murder cases against 866 such incidents.

Also, police registered at least 3,550 abduction cases during the first three months of 2018 as compared to 3,119 kidnapping incidents reported during the first quarter of 2017.

Similarly, at least 693 rape cases were registered with the police in first quarter of this year while the police had reported 630 rape cases during the matching period in 2017.

At least 41 cases of gang-rape were also reported by police in three months of this year against 39 gang-rape incidents registered with the police during the same period last year.  During the first three months of this year, the police registered at least 164 cases of dacoities (involving five or more than five gunmen) against 179 such cases registered with the provincial police during the same period in 2017.

The police data also shows that at least 2,697 armed robberies were reported during the first three months of this year against 3,014 such cases reported during the corresponding period in 2017. Similarly, at least 2,767 cases of burglary were reported by the police in three months of 2018 against 2,886 such cases registered with the police during the same period in 2017.

The provincial police registered 309 theft cases this year against 346 theft cases reported during the first three months of 2017. The police data revealed a considerable increase in cattle-theft cases this year as compared to the previous year. According to police, at least 1,333 cattle theft cases were registered with the police in the first three months of 2018 while the police had reported 1,310 such cases during the same period in 2017.