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Encountering death

By Haris Afzal on Saturday, January 29, 2011 with 0 comments

The issue of police encounters is once more with us. The Supreme Court has been hearing a case of the death of a young man in Gujranwala who the police say opened fire on a van carrying prisoners. His family holds he was quite deliberately shot dead, without reason. It appears, as the court observed, that the fake encounters seen in Punjab in the mid-1990s are once more being used by the police to deal with criminals. In the past this dangerous ‘strategy’ has had the backing of top officials. Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has been accused of endorsing them. We hope this is not the case again, but certainly, as the bench noted, senior police officials seem to have turned a blind eye to the practice.

It is astonishing they should do so, given that in the past such tactics have not led to any reduction in crime. Indeed, the crime rate has continued to climb. Police fondness for shooting dead those they suspect of a crime is a way to evade the painstaking investigative work required to prove a case before the courts. “Encounters” have also been used to settle petty scores, and, at least in some cases, those guilty of minor crimes such as theft have been killed by police bullets. The Supreme Court has noted that this is a situation that must be remedied. The police, at all levels, must be warned against such “encounters” and action taken immediately against anyone involved in them. We hope the situation we saw in Punjab during the 1990s will not be replicated. The court has made it clear it will not tolerate them. This should be enough to persuade the police to change their tactics and accept the principle that holds every person innocent unless proven guilty in a court of law.

Category: Editorial



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