Chief Minister Punjab Shahbaz Sharif suspended two senior police officials on Thursday over subjecting a father and his son to ill-treatment in a police station in Okara. While heading a meeting of the provincial cabinet, he was visibly upset over the thana culture, vowed to make an example of the officers and also suggested that the force could be fashioned along the lines of Turkish model. How effective will that be given the circumstances that seem almost impossible to surmount is hard to foresee. Police is the guardian angel to protect people from harm. A sight of policeman in the street should result in a sigh of relief but it stokes loathing of the criminal justice system. Reforms such as rigorous training and discipline, zero tolerance for irregularities and dereliction of duty and a strict overseeing can deliver results.

It is no overstatement to say that citizens cringe at the thought of going to a police station; first of all nobody from the constable up the chain of command is forthcoming to even talk to the complainant, much less being friendly. Bribe is so common that it is hardly considered an offence. Who would tell the force that it is there to serve and protect the citizens rather than bullying them?

Obviously even in this advanced age we have failed to administer a system of close monitoring. Usually when a citizen ventures to a police station to register an FIR against street crime, a bad-tempered officer would reprimand him for making a fuss out of nothing. No wonder criminals are on a looting and terror spree. Reports suggest that extortion mafia is making inroads into Punjab, something that was a foregone conclusion given the prevailing mess.

How to get rid of thana culture? The suggestion that provision of more courts will stamp it out is an effective one; but that is one facet. What about the police stations that an overwhelming majority of citizens see as dens of crime. That is there where thana culture prevails and where the crusade would have to begin.