LAHORE - What to say about the law and order situation in the provincial metropolis, where cops are found involved in brazen road robberies.  Three constables of Lahore police, who looted many overseas Pakistanis and their families at gunpoint early this year, are staying in the Shahdara Town police station for the last 65 days.

Constables Muhammad Adeel (21478/C), Muhammad Kaleem (15178/C), and Ali Akbar (18084/C) were arrested by Shahdara Town police on April 8, 2014. Since then, they are enjoying protocol outside the lock-up of the police station as their colleagues are reluctant to produce them before the court or initiate legal action against them.

“They are policemen and they are in our custody. This matter (of illegal detention) is in the notice of Lahore DIG (Operations),” Inspector Shahid Ali, Station House Officer (SHO) Shahdara Town police station said. When asked why the police did not present the criminals before the court of law, the officer declined to comment further.

Before their arrests, constable Adeel was posted at Flying Squad Qurban Lines, Muhammad Kaleem at Millat Park police station and Ali Akbar was serving in Sanda police station. They used to remain on-duty in the day while switching to gun crimes in the night.

Police sources revealed that the top officials are all set to give clean chit to these dacoits-cum-policemen despite the fact that they had confessed to 10 armed robberies in which they had targeted overseas Pakistanis and their families. According to an investigator, senior police officers were fearing for the alreadt corruption-riddled department to be the laughing stock if the arrests were made public. Unlawful confinement of criminals, particularly those accused of committing armed robberies, is common practice of the police culture in Punjab. Recently, Lahore CCPO Chaudhry Shafique Ahmed warned his department that there would be zero-tolerance against illegal detentions.

These dacoits in uniform, who specialise in targeting people returning to Pakistan on international flights, committed most of the robberies at Ring Road and in Shera Kot and Darogawala areas. “These policemen were heavily drunk when they had been caught at a picket. They were fleeing after looting a family at gunpoint,” sources said. They used to chase the passengers of international flights as they leave the airport premises for their native towns. When contacted, Lahore DIG (Operations) was not available for his comments. The Lahore police reported several cases in which the victims had accounted being intercepted by three or four men, carrying AK-47s and wireless phones and posing as police officials, seeking to check their luggage for foreign currency or illicit substances.

The gang used to snatch away the victims’ cash and other valuables at gunpoint. Most of the robberies occurred at early mornings and the victims were usually carrying large amounts of foreign currency.

It was also learnt that the families of these policemen had already paid Rs4,20,000 to the SHO Shahdara Town police station to secure their release. The parents of Ali Akbar, a resident of Sahiwal, and the father of Muhammad Kaleem, who belonged to Sheikhupura district, paid Rs3,00,000 to the SHO while Muhammad Adeel, a resident of Lajpat Road Shahdara paid Rs1,20,000 to the police.  “During preliminary investigations, the policemen confessed to 10 armed robberies in which overseas Pakistanis had been targeted,” says an official at Shahdara Town police.

Another police officer, requesting anonymity, said that the police recovered looted cash from their possession. “Police did not receive bribe from the cops. It is called recovery (of the looted cash).”

During the previous week, armed bandits struck the provincial capital for more than 300 times successfully and made off with cash, gold ornaments, and other valuables worth Rs900 million. More than 300 robberies including house robberies are taking place every day in the province, thanks to the Punjab CM for leaving the Lahorites at the mercy of police and dacoits.

In September, a family returning from Dubai was robbed half a mile from the airport gate of 7,000 British pounds sterling and US$2,000. Muhammad Ashraf, a passenger returning from Muscat, was robbed of gold jewellery worth Rs6,00,000 by four police officials in the airport parking lot. Another man who flew in from Qatar was robbed of 5,000 dinars in July.

Mirza Faisal Baig, a resident of Aziz Bhatti Town, was robbed near the Askari 10 gate, in North Cantt police precincts, by three policemen. They took away US dollars worth Rs400000. A man returning from Dubai was deprived of 18,000 UAE dirhams near Riwaz Garden.

The policemen had also robbed Muhammad Mansha of Samundri of 35,000 Saudi riyals, Muhammad Nizam from Faisalabad of 20,000 Saudi riyals, Sadiq from Khushab of 21,000 Saudi riyals, Adeel Hussain of 7,000 pounds sterling, all in Islampura police area.