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Custodial Torture: Amid Criticism Punjab Police Ban Mobile Phone Use While on Duty

The recent move face severe criticism by crime journalists and public on social media


By Muhammad Faisal Ali Ghumman

LAHORE– Baffled with rising complaints involving police misbehave with public and third-degree torture tactics as reported in the last two weeks or so, the provincial police chief has banned the use of cell phones by officers while on duty and barred them from capturing videos of other police personnel on duty.

A written order circulated among all field formation on Monday comes after several cases came to light in recent days of suspects dying in the custody of Punjab police due to alleged torture.

A communiqué sent to all Punjab police officers by the additional inspector general on behalf of the Punjab IG stated that it had been observed that police officials were using mobile phones while on duty even though “clear directions in this regard have already been conveyed to all field formations”.

“Frequent violations of these directions/SOPs reflect badly on the performance of supervising officers,” it said, stressing that it was the responsibility of the field formations to get the instructions implemented “in letter and spirit”.

“In future, no officer below the rank of SHO (Station House Officer) or in-charge of a deployed duty will use cellphone while on duty,” the letter decreed.

Cell phone notification

It also said that it was “strictly forbidden” to make a video of police officers on duty or upload a video of police officers performing their duty.

Any violations of the order will entail “severe departmental action” against the police personnel involved and their supervisory officer, it added.

The ban on use of cell phones has sparked debate among print and broadcast journalists covering police department that if IGP Captain (retired) Arif Nawaz Khan banned cell phone use among field officials to avoid leakage of such videos and skip embarrassment among people.

Farhan Ali Khan, a senior journalist from Abb Takk News Channel, commented on Facebook that this is the same police that are promoting IT-led policing among field cops to prevent and detect crimes and after ban how is it possible now for the force to use mobile apps for their duties.

“All SHOs and Investigation Incharges were provided smart phones with android applications to check suspects on roads through criminals’ data.”

Another journalist Muhammad Shahzad of Express Tribune commented: “IGP is more concerned about flashing of custodial deaths and police torture cases before public than putting an end to it. This (such practices) entails the deterence theory, the theory whole criminal Justice system of Pakistan is based upon. It implies don’t try to change the circumstances that give birth to a certain situation rather use force to control that situation. Don’t end the circumstances that give birth to crime rather create such a state of terror that stops a criminal from committing an offence.”

Another senior journalist Shiraz Hasnat from Hum News channel comments on Facebook: “I actually don’t know what happened to #IG #punjabpolice #arifnawaz…. Look at this notification, he issued.. Says No police officer below the rank of sho/Incharge Inv is allowed to use cell phone during duty… And he took this step after #ladyconstable #faiza video statement in which she bashed high police management.. Ooo comeon punjab police, do u think like u can stop stop it?? Do u think that in this way facts can not be recorded or come on media??? There r thousands other ways. I don’t knw Mr IG what kind of fool paradise u r living in this digital Era and what r ur illiterate advisors who are giving u that shit advices just to save their own skins. Quite disappointed frm u….”

On Sunday, the IG had announced that the SHOs if were found involved in illegal detentions and torture would be blacklisted and banned for field postings.

Police sources admit that police authorities never put focus on the training and capacity building of officials ranking from Police Constable to the Inspector so that they could act as humans in public dealing and interrogations with the suspects.

At least three cases had come to light last week of deaths caused by alleged police torture, and videos had gone viral on social media of some suspects in a distressed state while in police custody.

On September 1, Salahuddin Ayubi, a man who was said to be mentally disabled, had died in police custody in Rahim Yar Khan. On the same day, a middle-aged man had passed away in Lahore after allegedly being tortured by Gujjarpura police in an illegal torture cell that was unearthed last month.

Reports also emerged that a gardener named Amir Masih had died after being illegally detained in an alleged police torture cell in Lahore.— LAHORE MIRROR