Wed, Feb 22, 2017 | updated 10:55 PM IST

Police is the most mistrusted institution in Pakistan, says HRW report

Updated: Sep 29, 2016 15:59 IST

New York [USA], Sept. 29 (ANI): A recent report prepared by Human Rights Watch (HRW) has highlighted that the whole institution of police in Pakistan is 'crooked' and needs drastic transformation.

It says that public surveys and reports of government accountability and redress institutions show the police to be one of the most widely feared, complained against, and least trusted government institutions in Pakistan.

The report further goes on to say that the institution lacks a clear system of accountability and is plagued by corruption at the highest levels.

The report mentions that district-level police personnel are often under the control of powerful politicians, wealthy landowners and other influential members of society which makes them prone to corruption.

Also, there are numerous reported cases of police extra-judicial killings of criminal suspects, torture of detainees to obtain confessions, and harassment and extortion of individuals who seek to file criminal cases, especially against members of the security forces.

The poor and other vulnerable or marginalized groups invariably face the greatest obstacles to obtaining justice in a system that is "rigged" against them.

Several police officers who spoke to HRW openly admitted to the practice of false or faked "encounter killings," in which police stage an armed exchange to kill an individual already in custody.

The reasons for these killings vary as of pressure from higher command or local elites, or because the police are not able to gather enough evidence to ensure convictions.

Moreover, police are rarely held accountable for these killings and families of victims are deterred from filing complaints against police out of fear of harassment or being accused of false charges.

As one senior police officer said, the FIR is often used as a "tool of oppression. by the ruling elite against the weak and powerless."

Human rights organizations have also noted that registration and subsequent investigation of cases is particularly arduous for female victims of sexual assault. Such cases remain highly underreported because of the misogynist and biased attitude of state institutions, such as the police and judiciary, and society at large.

Pakistani Police also use their extensive powers of registration of cases, arrest, and detention at the behest of powerful societal to bring false charges against perceived opponents as a form of intimidation or punishment.

Many are arbitrarily arrested as under Pakistan's Criminal Procedure Code, police are empowered to arrest without a warrant any person against whom there is "reasonable suspicion" of being involved or "concerned in" certain types of criminal offenses .

The HRW also discovered that practice of custodial beating, torture and other ill-treatment of suspects in police custody is also a widespread problem there.

Custodial deaths resulting from torture are not uncommon.

Sharing information about encounter killings, a Pakistani Police Officer said that it is seen as a way of ensuring that a known criminal does not escape justice because of lack of evidence and witnesses. Others sought to frame the practice as a means of delivering justice to "hardened criminals" and circumventing an inefficient judicial system.

Police officers also said that increasing demands placed on the police have made maintaining law and order and ensuring public safety more arduous in Pakistan. In addition to regular policing duties, the government has placed the burden on the police to counter threats and violence posed by armed extremist groups and organized crime related to the arms and drug trades and land-grabbing.

The report further says that institutional constraints that have long hampered the police, such as insufficient human and financial resources, poor infrastructure, problems in the criminal justice system, and interference and influence from internal and external sources, have undergone no serious reforms.

All of these issues pose obstacles to the Pakistani police's ability to enforce law and order in a manner consistent with human rights, and free from corruption and improper influence. (ANI)

By Amit Shankar

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