Many senior officers argue that though the new formula of ‘killing the criminals to downgrade crimes’ has failed to improve the worsening law and order situation, it has successfully stunned the underworld. Some of them viewed that the aggressive policing had left the hardened criminals with no other option but to leave the gangland or the province to save their life.
This year, at least 200 criminals have so far been killed in police ‘encounters’ that took place or were staged in different parts of the Punjab province. During informal discussion, a few officers revealed that the police had a criterion to flush out the desperate criminals and its scope was amended from time to time. Once the provincial hierarchy or the top officers give go-ahead, those falling in the ‘encounter criteria’ are immediately eliminated.
According to the encounter criteria, those gangsters found involved in robbery-cum-rape incidents and those who kill the victim even after accepting ransom are aggressively eliminated. Similarly, the gangster who kill a police officer during a genuine encounter or the criminal who murders the victim on offering resistance during a robbery attempt also fall in the same category in the police book and deserve to be eliminated in an encounter. The police are also ‘empowered’ to decide the fate of the extortionists at their own.
Sources believe that the Crimes Investigations Agency or CIA police have widened the scope of the ‘encounter criteria’ and the hardened criminals involved in several cases of high-profile robberies or bank dacoities are also being eliminated.
For an instance, the CIA police staged an encounter in Shahdara area and killed three gangsters last week. Police claimed that they were involved in bank robberies.
Police officers say that the police have to punish the most wanted and desperate criminals aggressively because of the hitches and complications in our legal system. Under such circumstances when it becomes impossible for the investigators to prove an accused person as a criminal in the court of law, the police have to flush out the criminals rather than giving them an opportunity to play with the lives and respect of the citizens.
A senior police officer told this scribe during informal chat that the hardened criminals deserve harsh punishment. “Let me tell you that not even a single extortionists’ gang exit in Lahore. This is the big achievement of the Lahore police. We have zero tolerance for extortionists, robbers-cum-rapists, and kidnappers involved in abductions for ransom,” the officer explained.
Police circles believe that the law enforcing agency stepped up the killings of criminals in fake encounters after Chief Minister Punjab Mian Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif presided over a high-level meeting last week in Lahore and reviewed the overall law and order situation. The CM observed that the police were responsible for maintenance of law and order in the society and no laxity would be tolerated in this regard.
Shahbaz further stated that he was personally monitoring the law and order situation in Lahore as well as the whole province and warned the officers that strict action would be taken if any case of extortion or bribery came to his notice. The police high-ups gave a detailed briefing to the CM on the law and order situation in the provincial metropolis as well as the whole province. Shahbaz Sharif noted that show of performance only through statistics was not sufficient as the police would have to serve as the servants of the people in the real sense for curbing the crime.
Crimes experts have cited several reasons behind the surge in crimes including poor policing, corruption, criminal environment in the jails, epidemic of drugs and narcotics, unemployment, and poverty as well.
But regardless of these reasons, should the police be ‘empowered’ or given a freehand to decide the fate of the criminals in a country with an independent judiciary?