Police confronted poetic justice or sheer hooliganism?

Lawyers’ hard earned repute as police-thrashers is seriously threatened. The legal fraternity mustered this over-confidence after shaking the confidence of a general usurping the top executive powers. Their tireless struggle was catalytic in reinstating the country’s top judges, unlawfully sacked by General Pervez Musharraf. The months following the chief justice’s restoration, the lawyers pretended to become the law. Police was their prime target. Their show of aggression was more frequent than occasional. The police stations were attacked, vehicles set alight or damaged, and cops faced ‘poetic justice’, or a little more than that. The lawyers transformed roads of the Punjab into proverbial ‘drawing rooms’. A dark chapter in hooliganism against the state’s most brutal institution was shamelessly inked by the guardian of law.The common public has consistently been on the receiving end vis-à-vis cops, may it be in the Punjab, Sindh, Islamabad or elsewhere in the republic. Heinous rape of a 22-year old by a police officer in Haripur district of the KPK province can be a case in point. Then, you have countless instances of police complicity in crimes, ranging from usual land grab to kidnappings and dark murders. The DNA of personnel in Pakistan’s various police departments remains identical.Meanwhile, Taliban’s deadly attacks against checkpoints, police stations and senior officers cultivated a sympathy factor amongst the common public and the government, alike. While leaving them ill-trained, ill-equipped and over-worked, Islamabad increased their salaries to boost the morale. The provinces followed the suit. A constable in Islamabad now earns more than a senior school teacher. It’s hard to generalize that the pay raise had no positive effect on performance of a police station or personnel manning a checkpoint. However, there was little relief for the common people. Police harassment, motivated by the need to take bribe, still happens in broad-day light. Thanks to the country’s energetic, noisy and amateurish media for emboldening the common man, a cop’s success rate has lowered. Undeniably, meritless appointments, political favoritism and lack of training leave a lot much to be desired in today’s well-paid policemen. Thus, the nation witnesses death of seven unarmed protestors in the Model Town tragedy. Cometh June 23, Allama Qadri lands in the country. The over-reacting yet defensive government had no clear strategy for the police in the face of revengeful followers of the Canada-based cleric. The officers this correspondent spoke to since Monday morning said they were ordered against firing at the protestors and teargas shelling was their last resort. Police generously resorted to it and furthered fueled the mob’s anger. Qadri was no less generous in instigating violence, meanwhile. Wherever and whenever a lone cop was found, the ‘green revolutionaries’ attacked him like starving hyenas. Over six dozen police personnel received injuries while scores others manhandled did not ask for medical assistance. Islamabad Police like their colleagues in Punjab faced unprovoked violence.Police in the twin cities looked rudderless and defenseless, signifying lame, guilty and toothless command. Today’s events set the precedence for the future. The Qadri brigade will act more fearsomely whenever they take to streets (which will be sooner than later). A common man’s leftover trust in law-enforcing agencies will wane further as scenes of policemen being hounded up and thoroughly thrashed are becoming more visible than before.Last but not the least; the already low-on-morale force will fall deeper in the abyss of ridicule. Greater are the risks that some may act revengefully when the self-proclaimed ‘green revolutionaries’ try to take law in their hands yet again. The federal and provincial governments have long needed effective mob engagement and management strategy without resorting to excessive use (abuse) of force. Until then, there are little defenses against blind followers of Qadri who have exhibited their capability to set new records of hooliganism.

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Aaj Kal