LAHORE – The mystery surrounding the ‘low’ crime rate in Punjab was solved when some senior police officers revealed to this scribe on Friday that they had been directed by their bosses to use delaying tactics in the registration of cases.

Though the official record and statements of Punjab Police spokesperson give credence to the claim of low crime rate, Lahore CCPO and Additional IGP Muhammad Aslam Tareen admits that the crime rate has increased; and cites overpopulation, illiteracy and lack of equipment available with the department as the main reasons behind it.

Sources confided to TheNation that the ‘mysterious’ strategy to underestimate the crime rate was adopted days after Muhammad Habib-ur-Rehman replaced Javed Iqbal as Punjab inspector general of police (IGP) on February 17.

Rehman claimed in his latest interaction with the media that the department had clamped down on gangsters and desperate criminals thereby significantly decreasing the crime rate. “The crime rate has sharply decreased in all the nine police ranges during my tenure,” he said.

According to official statistics, the crime rate has significantly decreased in all the nine police ranges and 36 districts of the province after Rehman assumed charge as the IGP. Overall, 203,633 cases of all categories have so far been reported since February 17, while the figure was 209,963 in the corresponding period of the last year, thus showing a decrease of 6,330 cases. Of the cases this year, 143,620 have been sent to the courts; 32,137 are under investigation; 10,012 are untraced; and 17,864 have been cancelled. Similarly, of the cases last year, more than 145,575 were sent to the courts; 39,709 were under investigation; 8,593 were untraced; and 16,084 were cancelled.

The data show in this year so far more than 3,150 people have been killed; 3,890 shot at and wounded; 10,043 wounded or hurt; 8,204 kidnapped; 85 abducted for ransom; 1,350 raped; and at least 100 gang raped. Similarly, more than 1,790 dacoities, 9,742 robberies, 7,789 burglaries, 10,493 motor thefts, 3,607 motor snatchings and 4,227 cattle thefts have so far been reported in this year.

Reportedly, crime incidents of different types – such as dacoity, robbery, rape, gang rape and snatching – have significantly shot up in Gujranwala, Faisalabad, Sheikhupura, Rahim Yar Khan, Dera Ghazi Khan, Sahiwal, Muzaffargarh, Layyah and Multan districts.

“The major factor responsible for surge in the crime rate is political intervention,” a former IGP said on condition of anonymity, adding that the only demand of the parliamentarians, especially in southern Punjab, was the posting of favourite SHOs and DSPs in their constituencies. Answering a query, he said the motive behind such postings was to pressurise the opponents and book them in fake cases.

At least five ‘depressed’ district police officers (DPOs) and two regional police officers (RPOs) said they were categorically directed by the Punjab IGP to ‘control’ the crime rate at the earliest. A DPO, working in central Punjab, said on condition of anonymity that he was ordered to lodge FIRs of only heinous crimes, such as armed dacoity, murder, rape, gang rape, etc.

Replying to a query, the DPO said he was directed by the police headquarters to hold a series of departmental inquiries for killing time, and issue directions to divisional supervisory police officers and other subordinate staff for resolving disputes without registration of cases.

Punjab University Public Relations Director Isar Rana told this scribe that his Blackberry mobile phone was stolen from the Bhatti Gate area about 10 days ago but when he phoned the police officer concerned on Thursday he came to now that no case had yet been registered against the culprits.

Confirming the development, an RPO, who wanted to remain unnamed, said the crime scenario was changing day by day; and the province was moving towards clashes between the public and dacoits.

“Frankly speaking, I want to leave this department because ultimately it will be the most horrible target of the deprived and dejected masses,” he feared.