A DSP was suspended and five other policemen were arrested the other day after a video showing a police officer publicly beating suspects with a flat leather strap usually called chhittar, as the other cops held down the victims in Bhowana police station of Chiniot district. Each victim was in turn stripped naked and lashed 30 times with the chhittar. Boys and girls of adjoining schools also witnessed this violation of the law by the police. The violent act was repeatedly shown on almost all the television channels in the country which ultimately led to a furore but just for a few days. Eventually, the incident has been forgotten by the people and life goes on as usual. The question is, why were the people not moved to a greater extent? Specifically, why does any commotion on such an issue die down so soon, and business as usual resume? So a friend explained that people over here get inflamed only in the name of religion. He gave the example of a villager who was told that a crowd had attacked his village and mercilessly beaten his cousin, but he did not budge. Soon the news arrived that they had demolished a minaret of the village mosque. He immediately left what he was doing and ran towards the mosque. So you see, people observe the huqooq ullah more than they are concerned about huqooq ulibad. They rise solely in the name of religion, and not to prevent injustice and oppression. That is why oppression and oppressors sustain and flourish. The other reason why the commotion subsided so quickly is that this kind of thrashing is part and parcel of the daily fare at hundreds of police stations throughout the province. The only difference this time was that the beating took place in full view of the people in a public place. This method of torture persists in almost all the police stations under supervision of senior officers. Incidentally, the SHO in the present case is reportedly known as an 'encounter specialist. The locals have alleged that the SHO beats detained suspects daily at 11 p.m. The room in which the accused are tortured is called the 'drawing room by the police. When asked why, one official is reported to have said: Because we draw blood over there. Another shocking aspect about this incident was that the local MPA supervised the beatings. Can you believe it; the representative of the people having them thrashed without their guilt having been established? He said he did this because there was a popular demand that they (the accused in the incident) should be thrashed. Nevertheless, this shows the lack of credibility of our judicial system in the eyes of the public, who feel that no one will be punished for their crimes. The people therefore felt that they better have these boys at least thoroughly spanked. The situation is indeed comic, if it was not so tragic. As I have already said, beatings are the routine. I still remember an incident that happened many years ago. A car was stolen from the parking lot of a hospital in Lahore, and the police had arrested the parking attendant. His old mother and father came to me saying that they had heard that the police officers were going to beat him that night. I got worried, knowing that on a number of occasions the beating was so severe that the person actually died. I knew a very senior police officer, and rang him up. He said: Dr Sahib, dont worry, I will tell them not to use third degree methods. Mind you, he did not deny that his department did not use such methods In this backdrop, there seems to be no hope that such police torture will end anytime soon. If that is to happen, chief ministers will have to be immune to political pressure from MPAs to let off the culprits. There is no other way. But that is a tall order All chief ministers and prime ministers have always been hostages in the hands of their MPAs and MNAs. In the meantime, we remain hundreds of years away from utopia. If the numbers of deaths in police custody are any guide, we are moving further away from the rest of the world. God help us The writer is a former principal of the King Edward Medical College, and former president of the College of Physicians and Surgeons, Pakistan.