AZAM KHALIL Wickedness is weakness. Milton One wonders at the public reaction, in the media, over the reports of police torturing suspects, as well as innocent citizens, in various parts of the province of Punjab. The latest incident of police brutality, aired on almost all the television channels, was that several policemen were mercilessly beating a young man at the gate of Gulshan-e-Iqbal in Allama Iqbal Town, Lahore. Similarly, excesses by the police personnel are routinely highlighted in the print media but seldom have they evoked such a reaction either from the government or the civil society of this country. On several occasions torture cells that are maintained by different police officials outside the premises of the police station have been detected and reported in the press. It is pertinent to know that the police are bound by law to produce a person, arrested on any charge, before a magistrate within 24 hours in any case. However, in actual practice sometimes people are incarcerated for several weeks before they are produced in any court of law. Since the government and, unfortunately, the courts especially the lower judiciary kept on looking the other way, the police even got away with 'murder. Therefore, no one should have been surprised when these reports - once again - surfaced in which the policemen were shown using third degree methods on helpless citizens who were openly flogged in broad daylight with dozens of people witnessing the horrific act. Perhaps, the sharp reaction that resulted was due to the fact that a citizen had been publicly tortured, while in a majority of criminal cases, even more serious ones, committed by the police, behind the four walls of either their private torture cells or in the basements of their police stations, it gets off the hook easily. One cannot blame the police alone for such a behaviour because this is only an extension of our political culture that has existed without any check for several decades. Successive governments have used the Police Department as an instrument for political objectives and as such have not interfered, even when such excesses made by the policemen were routinely reported in the print media. Unfortunately, the Pakistani politicians have been harping on to bring a change in the thana culture. However, a drastic change is mainly required in the political culture of the country. Recently, when the electronic media splashed the news of an electricity theft being committed during a public meeting that was addressed by the PML-N chief Mian Nawaz Sharif, simultaneously several television networks showed policemen erecting banners and posters of a PML-N candidate contesting the by-election which was to be held in Lahore. In any other democratic country, this evidence should have been enough to trigger a strong rebuke or an outright cancellation of the by-election by the election commission. But none of this has happened and the candidate of the ruling party in Punjab continued to utilise substantial resources that had been put at his disposal by the government. Even the Chief Minister of Punjab Mian Shahbaz Sharif, who blows his own trumpet of righteousness, has failed to proceed not only against his candidate but also against those police officials who were seen participating as volunteers of PML-N. Under these circumstances, it is very difficult to expect that an entire political culture will change which will lead to the eradication of police torturing the citizens. We are aware of the fact that politicians of all shades endeavour to obtain the posting of their blue-eyed subordinate police officials and revenue staff, so that they can commit irregularities through them. These officials are then used to harass political opponents through the registration of false cases. Therefore, this is one of the reasons that has resulted in the creation of powerful land mafias who grab the property of innocent citizens with the help of the patwari and the thanedar , while the people have to suffer the agony for long years and even then most of the time fail to recover their legitimate properties from these fraudsters, who have sanction from these powerful elements of the state. There are several cases that can be cited where even senior police officials and elected representatives, who belonged to the opposition, were deprived of their land by ministers belonging to the ruling party. For example, among those that were deprived of their land were an Additional Inspector General of Police and a member of the Punjab Assembly who ran from pillar to post but to no avail and had to settle for litigation that may take several years before there is any outcome. Nevertheless, the time may have come where the political leadership decides to change an entire corrupt system and ensure that the rule of law prevails. To achieve this purpose, the recruitment, posting and transfers should strictly be made on merit in the Police Department, and even after that if a police official is found to have breached the law he should be given exemplary punishment to set an example for others. The ruling parties must also ensure that they will not use the police or the revenue department as an instrument of politics, only then can one expect things to return to normal. It would also be correct to remind the readers that the political culture or the thana culture in the rural areas is far worse than what has been reported and shown happening in the urban centres of Punjab. In the remote areas, human beings are treated like animals by the policemen who have powerful political backing and have continued to serve at one place much beyond their normal tenures. It is therefore absolutely essential that a system is evolved that discourages political influence in the police and revenue departments so that merit can hold the day. Only then it may become possible that the scenes of torture that are routinely reported by the print media or shown on television screens will slowly disappear. To achieve this objective strong political will is required and it must be understood that if the politicians do not interfere with these departments they will at the end of the day be helping themselves. Democracy would then be able to take a firm root in this country that will ensure that the rule of law prevails for each and every citizen of Pakistan. The writer is a freelance columnist. Email: