LAHORE - Last week, a 50-year-old jobless man died in Muslim Town police custody, hours after being held by the cops from his Gulshan-i-Ravi residence. Muhammad Ashraf, father of three, suffered cardiac attack and was taken to a hospital reportedly after some delay, where he was pronounced as brought dead.

Allegedly, he was thrashed and dragged by policemen outside his house, despite the fact that he was a heart patient. According to investigators, the deceased was a defaulter since he had issued a cheque for Rs50,000 to the complainant. In another episode, the police was found brutally torturing the manager of a guesthouse in Johar Town, who had refused to bribe the concerned SHO on monthly basis. The police raided the guesthouse, where a ‘dance party’ was in progress. The sole purpose of such raids was to mint money by blackmailing the people attending the party.

It does not end here as cops deployed at police pickets in Lahore prefer to sniff the mouth of motorists at night, rather than carrying out snap checking of the vehicle. This style of policing indicates that the policemen are more interested in minting money instead of tracking down the terrorists or the criminals.

Insiders say out of total crimes incidents more than 60 per cent cases related to public disputes, like kidnappings, assault, fraud and other disputes between two parties, are being reported by the police.

At a time when crime rate is multiplying, police are only focusing on the cases of public dispute to receive the bribe - from both the accused and the complainant - before solving the dispute. This has become a common police practice in the cases registered under section 406, 506, 489-F, and 365.

At least 175 blind murder cases, registered with the Punjab police from January to August, are yet to be traced. Similarly, no less than 3000 cases of armed robberies and 800 cases of auto-snatching are declared as untraceable by the Punjab police during the first eight months of this year.

Finally, Lahore Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) Muhammad Amin Wains has dared to observe the policemen taking special interest in public disputes rather than hunting down the criminals involved in organised crimes.

Presiding over a meeting at the Police Headquarters last week to review the crimes situation, the CCPO expressed his dissatisfaction over the police performance and ordered the cops to focus on the cases related to heinous crimes.

Had the police laid emphasis on the cases of organised crimes instead of solving the public disputes, the overall situation of law and order would have been improved in Lahore, the CCPO commented during the meeting.

Amin Wains has been struggling hard to bring positive changes in the traditional, complicated, and corruption-riddled department since he took the office.

He came out in the open and ordered the field officers to improve their performance, warning to face the music otherwise. He has also set a deadline for all the field officers in Lahore to submit their performance reports, while the department is also evaluating the performance of each and every officer. He has not only directed the policemen to change their mindset but also introduced some key initiatives to keep a strict check on the working of Lahore police.

For the very first time, the Lahore police have issued a new Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for carrying out raids on guesthouses and hotels in the provincial metropolis. After collecting credible information about the presence of criminals in a guesthouse or hotel, the SHO would have to get permission from the divisional SP and the Circle Officer before conducting a raid. An officer of the Inspector rank would lead the raiding party, while policewomen would also be comprising the raiding teams.

The new SOP would also help stop unnecessary raids on guesthouses in Lahore, where the police are doing this practice for minting money by harassing the hotels owners.

In order to control the rising crimes in the provincial capital, the police have finalised two key proposals including extension of Crime Investigation Agency (CIA) and upgrading of Investigations Wing of the police and Rescue-15. Changing the police mindset is really an uphill task and only time will tell whether the new Lahore police chief will be able to achieve this tough task.