Police Presence Amid Innocent Bystanders - 'Like a Dog' Article on Police Brutality

Like a dog

Like a dog,” said Kafka’s protagonist at the conclusion of “The Trial”, marking his extra-judicial execution at the hands of the police in a Totalitarian Justice system, and here the one condemned to die was 14-year-old Arsalan Naseem’s father, owing to the mental agony inflicted by the Punjab Police.

Post the 9th May strikes, the police functioning has improved in one particular way, to hunt down Human Rights advocates, political activists, and political leaders, but this time around the blessings of the master have known no bounds, resulting in an executive overreach not just on part of the police but on part of the District Management Groups as well. The Islamabad High Court had on 21st June 2023 ordered the registration of an FIR against the DC Islamabad and his fellow accomplices from the police force on illegally detaining a citizen for recovering money, and a similar matter is being adjudicated where police officials are being investigated for abducting un-involved citizens as a mode of pressurizing the accused to surrender and confess.

Like Kafka’s protagonist, are we to be executed or to suffer at the hands of the due process, where lawlessness prevails due to omissions of the Law enforcement agencies, and people dissenting are sent on a round trip across the country through numerous transit remands initiated through legal fiction (FIRs), which can be written again and again across provinces at the instigation of the State functionaries, or by citizens (who have at times in the past rejected partaking in such initiation). At present the only recourse to this is the courts of Law but as the Chief Justice of Pakistan stated “the Courts have been reduced to a rubber stamp”, which marks “the darkest era in the constitutional history” (remarks of his Lordship Mr. Miangul-Hassan Aurangzaib during the Iman Mazari case).

People vanishing in broad daylight, and houses ransacked during the night followed by justifications as to the legality of action are presented on X (formerly Twitter) or in the courts of public opinion through PEMRA subdued entities. Similarly, the police top brass presented their case within the court of public opinion that Arsalan Naseem’s father died of natural causes, but left out their own repeated abuse of due process and mental inflictions. Those who allow the police force to have an open season motivated by political interest should be mindful of the repercussions of their licensing. Should we let this pass or wait till the graces of the invisible hand have shifted to another institution, or better yet bring in again talks for the pipe dream once referred to as Police Reforms?

Despite the passage of the Police Order 2002, nothing has been much different since 1902 – 1903, when the Indian Police Commission at the time submitted its report which later on came to be known as the Fraser Report (Report commissioned during the Colonial Period in order to compare the Colonial Police structure with the Pre-colonial Police Structure). The report contained a portion about the public grievances and complaints, and much to one’s amazement, a great many acts of policing indolence and investigatory ineptitude, which at the time were branded as a reason for using coercive measures are still prevalent today. Furthermore, it stands to reason why Police Reforms and Police Accountability are not a priority, even though the current policing system is reminiscent of the colonial governance structure, while it reeks of Totalitarianism. This sentiment was differently echoed by a former IG Punjab, Abbas Khan who stated that “public has to deal with criminals in uniform”.

Who can tell the unaccounted and non-viral extent of police brutality, what happens when a person is not able to record and upload videos on social media of police illegalities, their description of events in a complaint binds a person to the mercy of the criminal courts for years to come, what recourse does an ordinary citizen have in the absence of an effective judicature, and a self-appeasing executive, and an unconcerned legislature. Unfortunately, the consequences manifest themselves as a parallel policing system that uses the law only either to establish its existence or to reverse engineer a justification for the actions they take, This and the culmination of institutional defects have manifested into the abomination of a police force lead by the PSP from the Federation.

The common folk and disgruntled segments of society, portray a revolution or an absolute abolition as the only solution, but the way forward is advocacy for Police Reforms, aimed at accountability, and greater checks and balances on the Police functions subject to Judicial oversight, within which the long-forgotten Cornelius Commission Report be taken into account because the totalitarian exercise of police functions is not only symbolic of the colonial oppressions but also provides an active license for political victimization and oppresses the ordinary citizen as witnessed during the era of the 15th Parliament and the successive executive actions witnessed during its tenure. For under the legal regime of Pakistan, a person dying or forced to die by the State action or omission might be termed as the narrative demands but the social contract which hangs by its last thread should be rest-itched, in order for the state to resolve its differences with its actual stakeholder, the public as opposed to systemically gratifying its functionaries.  

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The writer is a Lawyer in Islamabad.