LAHORE - What to say about the crimes and law and order situation in a society where policemen, supposed to protect the lives and properties of the citizens, are found involved in brazen armed robberies.

This is not for the first time that a gang of robbers led by a police official has been captured in the provincial metropolis. But, this daring precedent of gun-crime involving no other than the officials of the largest law enforcing agency has shocked the residents of the provincial capital.

On Tuesday last, police arrested two motorcyclists who were fleeing after snatching cash and valuables from a couple at gunpoint in the Garden Town area. One of the robbers was later identified Shakeel, a Constable of the Punjab police. The Garden Town police also recovered tens of thousands of rupees, several mobile phones, and two pistols from their possession.

According to police, Shakeel and his accomplice, identified as Irfan, held up Sheraz Saeedi and his wife at gunpoint in the Iqbal Town (Kamran Block) and snatched away Rs 60,000 besides three mobile phones.

“One of the bandits was clad in police uniform. As my wife tried to make hue and cry, he put a pistol on my face and asked my wife to hand over the handbag, containing cash and valuables,” the complainant said.

The couple was coming back home after visiting a hospital for medical check-up on a motorcycle when they were robbed right outside their house after Tuesday midnight.

The police reached the crime scene when the bandits had escaped. The Gulshan-e-Iqbal police registered a case (FIR No 446/13) on the complaint of Sheraz Saeedi against two unidentified motorcyclists at least 48 hours after the happening.

Meanwhile, the same bandits were arrested from Garden Town red-handed. The policemen distributed, among each other, tens of thousands of rupees they had recovered from the bandits. The complainant has been asked to collect the empty handbag and forget about what had happened.

Police sources revealed that Shakeel had been running a gang of five robbers. Several policemen serving in the Lahore police are said to part of this criminal gang since they were receiving their due share from the ‘income.’

The Garden Town police handed over Shakeel and Irfan to the Faisal Town police for interrogation. A police official requesting anonymity said that at least 40 cases of armed robberies have been traced against the gang of policemen-cum-robbers. This gang of robbers had been looting unarmed citizens at gunpoint actively in the Iqbal Town, Garden Town, Faisal Town, Millat Park, Sabzazar, Johar Town, and Samanabad police vicinities.

Interestingly, the police are providing best protocol to their brothers in the lock-up rather than treating them like other criminals.

On the other hand, the Punjab police have launched a ruthless campaign against the criminals and as many as 155 alleged criminals have been assassinated in the fake encounters, staged across the province during the first seven months of this year.

“Bad guys exist in every section of the society. This is really very unfortunate that the policemen are committing armed robberies in Lahore,” commented a senior police officer, who preferred his name not be mentioned.

The accused are in the custody of Faisal Town police and they wounded be handed over to the Gulshan-e-Iqbal police for further interrogation after completion of investigation of the cases, registered in their jurisdiction.

“Yes, one thing has been established that Shakeel is a police official, who was dismissed from service,” Muhammad Ayyub, investigation officer at the Gulshan-e-Iqbal police station said.

The incidents of armed robberies are on the rise across the province particularly in the provincial metropolis and many crime experts say the corruption-riddled police are part of the problem.

Last year, two officials of the Lahore police had also been arrested on similar charges. During interrogation, they had confessed to more than 20 armed robberies that they had committed in different parts of the city.

Armed robberies have become order of the day which is evident from the fact that dacoits looted no less than 60 houses in just last seven days and snatched away cash, gold ornaments and other valuables worth Rs45.74 million after holding the families hostage at gunpoint. Around 35 motorcycles and 15 cars were also either snatched or stolen away from different parts of the provincial metropolis during last week.

Hundreds of jewellers took to the streets on Monday to protest against the lawmen’s failure to rein in robbers. The Jewellers’ Association led the rally from Rang Mahal Chowk to Gujjar Gali. During the first week of this month, armed bandits hit two main jewellery shops in different parts of the provincial metropolis and snatched away gold ornaments worth millions of rupees.

Virtually, the historic Lahore city has become a safe haven for the gangsters and robbers, thanks to the policemen.

The involvement of policemen in armed robberies has raised many eyebrows besides putting a question mark on the working of the country’s largest law enforcing agency.