In every country, the constitution provides for the powers and limitations on the functions of institutions. For example, it is the duty of the legislature to formulate laws. The judiciary has the authority to interpret and apply law to certain cases, while the executive has the power to implement laws made by the legislature. To implement laws, the Executive has numerous institutions; and amongst them the Police department is one.
Almost every individual knows that the job of the police is to maintain law and order, to ensure the safety of citizens as well as their property. In order for the police to perform such duties, the constitution allows it to apprehend people who are accused of breaking the law or who take actions mala fide, and to produce them before courts, which would in turn decide whether the accused is guilty of the crime alleged to him or not, and make decisions accordingly. However, the police in Pakistan could be seen transcending its limitations.
There have been numerous instances when the police of Pakistan have crossed its boundaries. The crossing of its boundaries is often in the shape of extra-judicial killings in so-called encounters and in police custody. The killing of Naqeebullah Masood in a staged encounter in Karachi and the death of Salahuddin Ayubi in the custody of Rahim Yar Khan Police are a few cases in point which lay bare the deeds of the police. Moreover, the recent killing of Irfan Jatoi in a so-called encounter reveal that this has become routine.
The justification and account for such encounters that the police very often seem to have is that the victim was killed in a police encounter. The details read as the victim was accused of having been involved in criminal activities and had an FIR registered against him; the police being informed of the whereabouts of the criminal rushed to that place where the so-called criminal was hanging about; the moment the police reached there the so-called criminal opened fire; and in the exchange of fire between the police and the accused, the accused was killed.
What makes an ordinary man doubt such a monotonous account is the fact that the police are always safe in such encounters. No policeman gets hurt despite the fact the so-called criminal has opened fire first. This leaves doubt in the mind of listener as to how come no one on the police side got injured while the so-called criminal was killed. Thus the police versions of such events are hard to credit.
No doubt, in some cases, the victims killed are involved in criminal activities. But this does not at all mean that their end should be like this: that they should be killed at the hands of the police without recourse to courts. If someone is guilty of a crime, they should be arrested and produced before a court of law which has the authority to judge them. It is another thing that the deliverance of justice is a slow process in Pakistan. However, this does not authorize the police to take decisions on behalf of courts.
There are some people who argue in favour of the extrajudicial killing citing some instances of weak criminal justice system. They argue that the courts often fail to plead criminals guilty and thus they evade punishment easily. Therefore, by extrajudicial killings the justice is served timely. However, what they suggest is not suitable, for holding the criminals accountable and punishing them for their crimes, the police cannot be a substitute for the judiciary.
Life is a fundamental right which cannot be taken from man; and extrajudicial killings and custodial deaths are flagrant violations of the article 9 and 10A (added through Eighteenth amendment) of the Constitution of Pakistan which respectively read as: “No person shall be deprived of life or liberty save in accordance with law” and “[f]or the determination of his civil rights and obligations or in any criminal charge against him a person shall be entitled to a fair trial and due process.” In addition to the articles present in the constitution of Pakistan, the 3rd and 11th articles of 30 basic human rights, declared by UNO as Universal Declaration of Human Rights, give man the right to life and fair trial. Even the 12th article of basic human rights goes on to state that “ [e]veryone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence”.
Killings in staged encounters and in custody are no different from murder. However, the reaction of the civil society and state is not the same as it is to an ordinary murder. It occasionally gets condemned by the civil society; and most of the time it goes unnoticed. Since it is an offence equal to murder, the people involved should be held accountable, trialed and, if found guilty, executed.
As has been said earlier, the extrajudicial killings and custodial deaths are violations of basic human rights; it is the collective duty of civil society to raise voice against such incidents. Whenever events such as the killing of Naqeebullah transpire, the civil society must take to the streets to make sure that the people involved in unrecorded crime are brought to book. Moreover, it is also duty of the courts to launch full-scale inquiries in such suspicious matters as extrajudicial killings, so that the police can be prevented from crossing its constitutional boundaries.
In the end, the police should also be aware of its duty; its duty is not to take lives, but to save lives. It is paid to protect citizens not to harm them.
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