WEB DESK: The Karachi Police’s year-end report card for the law and order operations shows a deeply disturbing increase in the number of suspects killed in police and Rangers ‘encounters’. According to official figures, as many as 925 suspects were killed in ‘encounters’, 701 of them with the police and 224 in shootouts with the Rangers.
Going by past experience, police encounters are a euphemism for extra-judicial killings. Some of the shootouts in the present instance though may have been real considering the high rate of casualties among the law enforcement agencies. 143 police personnel and 17 Rangers also lost their lives in what a police and the Rangers spokesperson described as targeted attacks, and scores suffered injuries.
Nonetheless, it is an open secret that the police find ‘encounter’ killings an effective way of getting rid of dangerous criminals. This abhorrent practice is frequently used in other parts of the country as well. A few months ago, the head of a violent sectarian organisation was gunned down along with several others in an ‘encounter’ widely believed to be a case of extra-judicial killing. Few shed tears over the incident because of the nature of crimes those people were known to have been perpetrating.
But it is unfortunate, indeed, that this method should not only be employed but find public acceptability at some level. This goes on because of the flaws in the criminal justice system. Because of the fear such elements strike in the hearts of people, witnesses are never willing to come forward to testify against them before courts of law. The police, still not conversant with modern methods of investigation and lacking the aid of crime detection technologies, fail to present properly prepared prosecution cases before courts. As a result, even when caught, terrorists get released by courts, going back to doing what they had been doing before.
The problem has been debated endlessly since the nation came together to deal with terrorism. Hence a 20-point National Action Plan (NAP) was launched a year ago, ie, in January 2015, to crack down on terrorists. It was decided to reform the criminal justice system to ensure terrorism suspects could be brought to book through due process. Sadly, a year on, the government has little to show for its efforts in this particular regard. In fact, only the other day Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan acknowledged ‘slow progress’ on five of the 20 NAP points, one of which was revamping of the criminal justice system.
Two other closely related ‘slow progress’ points were the re-emergence of proscribed organisations under new names, and a legislation to deal with cyber crimes. The minister though did not offer a reasonable explanation for the slowness. As regards the issue of ‘encounter’ killings, the government seems to be complacent after having opted for the easy but ethically uncomfortable option of trying terror suspects in military courts, and lifting the moratorium on death penalty. Extra-judicial killings are a blot on the name of a civilised society overseen by a democratically-elected government. It is about time all the 20 NAP points are implemented without further ado.