LAHORE - More than 150 private torture cells are operating under the nose of top cops in the Punjab Capital, where the police detain accused illegally on the pretext of interrogation for many days to avoid legal complications. The private police torture cells operating in the City, which came to surface in the recent past, has also put a question mark on the 'good governance of the Punjab government. Well-placed sources in the police department revealed that the Operations, Investigations and CIA wings of the City police have set up more than 150 private torture cells in the jurisdiction of 77 police stations in the provincial metropolis to interrogate robbers, car-lifters, and other gangsters by applying traditional methods of torture without any fear and hesitation. These private torture cells also help police escape the raids of court bailiffs in cases of illegal custody. The recent disclosures of private torture cells established in connivance with the senior police officers are more than an eye-opener for those sitting at the helm of affairs in the Punjab hierarchy, a senior official said, requesting his name not to be mentioned. The setting up of private torture cells by police is a heinous crime and law doest not sanction running of such cells at private places for so-called interrogations, Muhammad Azhar Siddique, an advocate of Supreme Court of Pakistan commented, when contacted. A retired police officer said that a good number of private torture cells are operating in the City and this is like an open secret. No policeman can set up private torture cell before getting 'go ahead from the senior officers. But whenever any private torture cell came to surface, the top cops punish the lower sub-ordinates to save their own skins, he added. The policemen set up these torture cells at private places including guesthouses, Deras of local influential people and sometime at rented apartments, where they carry out activities whatever they want. Interestingly, a couple of days ago, a police constable of Gulshan-e-Ravi Police Station identified as Muhammad Asif was found murdered with sever head injuries from a private torture cell. Similarly, dacoits shot at and wounded another police constable in Shahdra Area the other day and fled away along with their accomplice, who had been detained at the private torture cell by the police for interrogation. In Gulshan-e-Ravi Area, some car-lifters hit constable Muhammad Asif in the head and fled away from the private torture cell, where they had been kept in illegal detention for interrogation. Police source said that the constable was on guard at the illegal torture cell set up in the locality of Sherakot police when the gangsters hit him in the head with some blunt weapon and fled away after unlocking their chains. The constable had sustained serious head injuries and died there later. The next morning Sub Inspector Ikram visited the private torture cell and found his subordinate dead with sever head injuries. Police said that SI Ikram had arrested the gangsters and kept them in illegal custody at the private torture cell for interrogation while the whole incident was already in the notice of senior police officers. SI Ikram got panicked and fled away after throwing the dead body of the constable in the drain to hush up the matter. Another police source said that the police officials set up torture cells after getting 'approval from the high ups to keep the accused in illegal custody. Reportedly, in several cases in the past, when the accused died due to the police torture at the private cells, the cops fled away after throwing their dead bodies somewhere to hush up the issue. Sources believed that the policemen prefer to keep the gangsters in illegal custody for 'traditional interrogations rather than putting them behind the bars in the police station. According to the law, the police have to produce the accused before the court within 24 hours after the arrest. Therefore, the policemen keep the accused in illegal custody to avoid legal complications. Soon after the police recovered the dead body of Muhammad Asif, who was found murdered from the illegal detention cell, his close relatives and family friends gathered outside the Gulshan-e-Ravi police station and staged a strong protest demonstration against the police, putting the top cops in hot water. The top cops dismissed SI Ikram and SHO concerned from service to save their skins before the matter was brought into the notice of Chief Minister Punjab Shahbaz Sharif. The senior police officers forced the maternal uncle of the deceased who is also Head Constable in the police department to immediately hush up the issue to save the skins of the top cops as the incident made headlines in the local media. Sources revealed that the police have declared the constable Muhammad Asif as Shaheed, who was found murdered from the illegal torture cell of the police and was on unofficial duty at the private torture cell. The decision to this effect was taken at a high-level meeting in order to hush up the mater and to convince the deceased family as according to the policy, the deceased family is paid Rs3 million when the policeman is declared as Shaheed by the department besides other benefits. The Gulshan-e-Ravi police have registered the case against the gangsters on the complaint of Sub Inspector Bashir of the same police station and are investigating with no arrest made so far. When contacted repeatedly, both the CCPO Lahore and SSP (Operations) were not available for their comments.