NationalVOLUME 18 ISSUE # 01

Time to reform the police

A state which does not protect its people, especially children and women, is doomed to fail. Unfortunately, the state of Pakistan has utterly failed to protect its citizens, including innocent children. There are many criminals and rascals who are assaulting and killing innocent children without any fear of punishment, while the government has failed to arrest them.

On October 7, 2020, the body of a two-year-old Zainab, daughter of Akhtar Munir of the Sheikh Killay Qilla area, was found in the fields in the Jabba Koroona area in the limits of the Daudzai police station in Peshawar. The postmortem report confirmed that the girl had been tortured and abused before being stabbed to death.

The incident was similar to the 2018 Zainab Amin rape case. In the case, 8-year-old Zainab Amin was assaulted and killed brutally in Kasur. The Zainab case shocked the entire country and created a country-wide reaction and outcry. Despite the huge outcry and reaction of the Zainab case in Kasur, Pakistan is still not a safe place for children and women. Hundreds of such incidents happen every month. Some cases get national attention through the media, including social media. There are many cases which go unnoticed. After every tragic incident, the government promises to bring about reforms in the police and judicial system for appeasing the angry people. But, practically, it does nothing.

In Mansehra, a 10-year-old child was allegedly molested more than 100 times by a madrassa teacher and his companions. On September 9, a woman was assaulted in front of her three kids at gunpoint on the Lahore-Sialkot motorway.

In the Zainab case, Imran Ali, the convict in the case, was hanged. The court also handed down the death sentence to Shahzad in the Chunian case. In spite of the sentences, there is no letup in crime against innocent and helpless children.

The End of Childhood Index ranks Pakistan at number 149 out of 174 countries. The Global Gender Gap Report says, “Pakistan is the world’s third worst country to be a woman in, ahead of only Iraq and Yemen.” According to the Human Rights Watch, “a woman is assaulted every two hours in Pakistan. The country has 2,937 rape cases filed in 2018 and 3,500 cases of rape and abuse were reported in 2019.” According to a Pakistani NGO, “As of June 2020, some 497 child abuse cases have been reported in the newspapers. A majority of the cases, almost 57 percent, were reported in the Punjab. Of the rest, 32 percent were reported in Sindh, and 6 percent in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. More than 35 child abuse cases were reported in Islamabad during the time, another 22 reported in Balochistan, 10 in Azad Jammu and Kashmir and one in Gilgit-Baltistan. At least 173 children were gang-raped, whereas there were 227 reports of attempted assault. While 38 children were killed after they had been abused.”

The figures show clearly that the state is not able to protect children and women. There are many reasons for the inability of the government. Two examples can be cited to prove that the government and the police are protecting the culprits. The police arrested Sohail Ayaz, a consultant for the KP Governance and Policy Project, for allegedly abusing 30 children in 2019. The suspect was affiliated with an international child pornography racket. He was deported from the UK after being convicted of child abuse. He was also considered the ringleader of an international dark web. He also faced trial in Italy for child abuse before being deported from the country. In spite of the horrible facts, Sohail Ayaz could not be stopped from his spree. Kasur’s Hussain Khanwala village’s abuse scandal that emerged in 2015 is another example which proves that powerful people cannot be touched and punished in Pakistan. The police took into custody hundreds of video clips showing a gang forcing dozens of young boys and girls to perform indecent acts and filming them. The gang also used the videos to blackmail the families of the victims and extorted millions in cash and jewellery from them. In spite of the facts, no action was taken against the accused.

The police system should be improved and reformed to stop the incidents. Tariq Khosa, a former IG Police, suggested nine principles of Sir Robert Peel to improve the police system: The basic mission for which the police exist is to prevent crime and disorder. The ability of the police to perform their duties depends on the public approval of police actions. Police must secure the willing cooperation of the public in voluntary observance of the law to be able to secure and maintain the respect of the public. The degree of cooperation of the public that can be secured diminishes proportionally to the necessity of the use of physical force. Police seek and preserve public favour not by catering to public opinion, but by demonstrating impartial service to the law. Police can use physical force to the extent necessary to secure observance of the law or to restore order only when the exercise of persuasion, advice and warning is found to be insufficient. Police should maintain a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and the public are the police. Police should direct their action strictly towards their functions, and never appear to usurp the powers of the judiciary. The test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with it. The media and civil society should also highlight the issue and create awareness among the people to check the incidents.