A fall in fake police encounters

LAHORE – The Punjab province has witnessed a sizeable decrease in the incidents of fake police encounters or extra-judicial killings during the current year as compared to the previous.

At least 226 alleged criminals were killed in 203 “police encounters” during the first 10 months of this year across the Punjab province. Last year, the police had killed 292 alleged criminals in 245 armed encounters during the same period.

According to the latest data, at least 16 policemen were martyred during the anti-criminal operations from January to October in Punjab as compared to 23 police who died in the line of duty during the same period in 2016. However, policemen remained “unhurt” in most of the shootouts with criminals.

According to insiders, most of the suspects who were killed in the police action this year were already in the police custody and the shootings were staged to do justice.

Also, the police reported a considerable decrease in the arrests of criminals this year as compared to the previous one. This year, the police arrested 106 alleged criminals during the shootouts while last year the police had arrested 144 criminals during the corresponding period.

This year’s decrease in police shootings is being attributed to the bifurcation of data between alleged criminals and terrorists. Since most of the terrorists are killed by the counterterrorism department in Punjab, the police are given freehand to decide the fate of hardened criminals.

Some police officers, citing crime figures as evidence, argue that the formula of fake police encounters badly failed to improve the sense of security among the public. According to them, the extra-judicial killings are not the solution to control rising crime incidents in the biggest province.

On the other hand, a few policemen were of the view that the extra-judicial killings are part of the aggressive policing campaign launched in the province on the desire of the rulers. They also claimed that the incidents of bank robberies, kidnappings for ransom, and house robberies registered a slight decrease after the non-stop police shootings.

The police have been killing hundreds of criminals each year since decades. But the crime rate is also multiplying. Even no one if safe in big cities, gated communities, and roads and highways. Still, many parts of the province become no-go areas for travelers after the sunset.

Insiders say, the police in Punjab have set a criterion to eliminate desperate criminals and the scope of police shootings is amended from time to time. Once the provincial hierarchy or the top officers are given go-ahead, those falling in the ‘encounter criteria’ are immediately eliminated. 

According to this so-called policy, gangsters found involved in robbery-cum-rape incidents and those who kill the victim even after accepting ransom, are aggressively eliminated. Similarly, the gangster who shoots a policeman or the criminal who kills the victim during house robbery attempt also fall in the same category and deserve to be eliminated in such a fake encounter. The police are also ‘empowered’ to decide the fate of the extortionists at their own. 

The practice of encounter killings is quite common in this country. More than 450 crime and terror suspects had been shot dead by police during at least 359 shootouts across the province in 2015.

Police sources describe 2015 as the year of “police encounters” in the history of the Punjab police. The figures were almost double if compared to 2014 when at least 259 suspects were shot and killed in 267 armed encounters.

The police had started killing hardened criminals and hardcore militants ruthlessly soon after the federal government introduced the much-hyped National Action Plan to quell militancy and extremism in December 2014. The bill was drafted following the massacre of schoolchildren in Peshawar. All the political parties had unanimously approved the action plan while the provincial governments were tasked to implement the strategy.

The police had killed 360 alleged criminals in a total of 397 encounters reported across the province in 2012. However, in 2011, at least 127 alleged criminals had been killed during the shootouts with the law enforcing agency.

Although the police killed hundreds of criminals during the last five years yet there was no let-up in the incidents of heinous crimes reported by the police this year in Punjab.

For an instance, the Punjab police registered at least 35 cases of kidnapping for ransom in the first ten months of the year. Last year, at least 31 such cases were registered with the police under the head of kidnapping for ransom.

Similarly, the provincial police registered at least 341,829 case of crime from January to October this year, while last year the police had reported at least 343,859 cases during the corresponding period. The official record reveals that the police investigators failed to trace at least 13,292 cases of crimes reported across the province during this year. More than 36,800 cases are still under investigation.

According to police data, at least 42,148 cases were registered under the head of crime against person during the first 10 months of 2017 as compared to 43,452 such cases reported during the same period in 2016. The police this year registered at least 66,938 cases in the category of crime against property as compared to 67,281 such cases reported during the same period in 2016.

 

ASHRAF JAVED

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