Muhammad Bilal Ramzan The Sialkot incident was yet another example of a society calling its protectors for help in the face of a sorry state of human rights and rule of law. This episode of barbaric killings was not the first of its kind. There have been quite a few attempts of similar nature in the past 12 months, especially in Karachi where the people had literally assumed the role of law enforcers as well as the judiciary. There was a need for serious action back then which, unfortunately, was never taken and which ultimately culminated in the demise of two brothers in Sialkot. However, what was most depressing at Sialkot was the silent presence of law enforcers alongside a violent crowd. It depicts not only the weakness of the Police Department, but also their indifferent attitude towards the law. In fact, their silent presence encouraged the crowd to commit the barbaric act of public killing and hanging. The police simply did not try to enforce the law and for that they ought to be punished. The Police Order 2002 which governs their duties highlights penalties that can be imposed for gross negligence that cost the lives of two young men. According to Police Order 2002, it is the duty of the police to provide protection and maintain public peace. Section 3(d) of the said order, in this respect is attention-grabbing. It enjoins upon the police to aid individuals who are in danger of physical harm. With such clearly laid down rules, it was nothing but wilful defiance on the part of the police which caused the deaths. Also, their silence in the midst of criminal activity implicates them in the crime. Section 107 of Pakistan Penal Code is directly applicable in this regard on a person who intentionally aids, by any act or illegal omission, the doing of that thing. Both the laws taken together clearly signify breach of law by the police officers. According to Section 80 of the Police Order, function of the Provincial Public Safety and the Police Complaints Commission is to take action against the omissions committed. It is under a statutory duty to do so, on its own accord, if the case is of severe nature, and order a competent authority to probe the matter. But to the dismay of fair-minded people of the country, no action was taken, and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court had to take up the matter. A still gloomier picture appears when the incident is seen in the light of the punishment that has been prescribed for the police neglect. According to Section 155 of Police Order, if an officer is found to have breached his duty, he can be, at maximum, imprisoned with fine for no more than three years. Considering the gravity of the criminal acts, this punishment would hardly fulfil the demands of justice and in no way constitutes deterrence. More importantly, investigation is the main course to decide the fate of the guilty officer. But the slow pace of investigation, inability and ill will of the investigating officer or the team usually overshadows the proceedings that could provide an easy escape to the culprit. While the judicial inquiry into the Sialkot murders has been completed, the Police Department does not appear to show any seriousness in conducting its own inquiry. This incident highlights a signal failure of our police not only in the light of local law, but also the international code to which Pakistan subscribes. The United Nations has provided a Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials (adopted by General Assembly resolution 34/169 of December 17, 1979) which sets out the basic standards for policing agencies across the world and relates to all law enforcement officers who exercise powers of arrest and detention. It requires them to recognise the rights set out in the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and other international conventions. Under its Article 5, a law enforcer is restrained from tolerating any act of torture, while discharging his duties. This grave violation brings out the need for reform in the system and revitalisation of the existing bodies established to check the police conduct such as Provincial Public Safety and Police Complaints Commission. It is necessary to establish a system which is easily accessible and neutral. In the UK, the Police Reform Act established the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) which investigates the most serious complaints and allegations of misconduct against the police in England and Wales, as well as handles appeals from people who are not satisfied with the way the police have dealt with their complaint. More importantly, IPCC is self-governing, making its decisions entirely independently of the police, government and complainants. These measures provide for a powerful legal regulatory framework making the police accountable for their actions. There is a stark need to introduce some changes on the same lines in Pakistan. Hence, the need of the hour is to introduce and implement a more coherent code for police accountability to eliminate the recurrence of such despicable acts in the future. The Sialkot act requires serious attention of the authorities and a strong reprimand of the officials whose criminal omission allowed the people to take law into their own hands. Indeed, now is the time to set an example and take appropriate steps to put an end to such wrongdoings The writer is a research associate at Research Society of International Law (RSIL), Pakistan. Email: info@rsilpak.org