LAHORE - The police in the biggest Punjab province killed one robber after every 24 hour during the shootouts, mostly fake and staged in different parts of the province during last year as 360 alleged criminals were eliminated during 365 days of 2012.

In 2011, at least 127 alleged criminals had been killed during the shootouts with the law enforcing agency, according to the annual crime data recently released by the Punjab police. The official figures suggest sizeable surge in the killings in fake police encounters, thanks to the provincial government for giving free-hand to the police to decide the fate of the criminals at their own.

The police gunned down 360 alleged criminals in a total of 397 police encounters reported across the province in 2012 while the police had ‘encountered’ 216 times with the criminals in 2011. However, in the armed encounters, 29 policemen were martyred in 2012 against 28 were killed by gangsters during the year 2011.

The figures also reveal that the ratio of genuine encounters between the police and the criminals remained almost same in 2012 and 2011. The police adopted aggressive policy in 2012 and eliminated more and more ‘gangsters’ to downgrade the crimes.

Virtually, the new police formula of ‘killing the criminals to downgrade the crimes’ badly failed to improve the worsening law and order and crimes situation in the Punjab. Though the crimes incidents in a few categories descended slightly, yet there was no let-up in the incidents of crimes against persons like house dacoities, road robberies, vehicle lifting and snatching, and other street crimes despite the provincial police continued killing spree brazenly in the presence of independent judiciary.

Out of total 395006 incidents of crimes registered in 2012, the police reported 103208 cases of crimes against property including 3099 of dacoity, 17833 of robbery, 14686 of burglary, 2528 of theft, 20418 of motor-vehicle theft, 6725 of motor-vehicle snatching, 8071 of cattle theft and 29828 of other nature.

In the category of crimes against person, the police also reported 6312 cases of murder, 7549 of attempt murder, 20327 of hurt, 15562 of kidnappings, 160 of kidnapping for ransom, 2606 of rape and 213 of gang rape, and 7680 of other nature.

A disturbing indication was seen during a research that vehicle lifting and snatching incidents swelled to an alarmingly level during the last two years as 26,164 cases were reported in 2011 while the police reported more than 27,000 cases of auto-lifting in 2012. As many as 6,459 persons had been murdered in 2011 as compared to 6,030 in 2010.

Citing crime figures as evidence, some police officers argue that the formula of extra-judicial killings badly failed to improve the sense of security among the public.

A few were of the view that the aggressive policing had left the hardened criminals with no other option but to leave the gangland or the province to save their lives. They also said that the incidents of bank robberies, kidnappings for ransom, and house robberies registered a slight decrease since the police ‘purged’ the society from several gangs of criminals during the shootouts.

The police in Punjab have set a criterion to flush out the desperate criminals and its scope is amended from time to time. Once the provincial hierarchy or the top officers give go-ahead, those falling in the ‘encounter criteria’ are immediately eliminated.

According to the encounter criteria, those 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 kill a police officer during a genuine encounter or the criminal who murders the victim on offering resistance during a robbery attempt also fall in the same category in the police book and deserve to be eliminated in a fake encounter. The police are also ‘empowered’ to decide the fate of the extortionists at their own, according to insiders.

Crime experts say that the corruption-riddled police department should be purged from politics and the top officers should be given free-hand as far as the postings and transfers of the police officers are concerned.

The government must take some bold steps to reform the police culture by providing required resources and powers to the authorities while the incompetent officers should be held accountable. The better the government will introduce police reforms, the quicker the policing will start improving.