Salahuddin’s death in police custody exposes ugly face of Punjab police

Viral pictures of Salahhdin’s dead body reveal the fact that he was subjected to severe torture by the Punjab police. People are demanding an answer from the authorities. Social media users asking if there is any reform package left

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In the latest development, Pakistanis have started questioning the state of police reforms in Punjab. Where is the committee and its recommendations to de-politicize Punjab police? The question is being asked after an ATM thief died in police custody. His death has posed some serious questions.

According to details, a resident of Gujrat’s Kamonkey district, Salahuddin was arrested from Rahim Yar Khan from an ATM booth after attempting another robbery. Police reported that upon his arrest Salahuddin had presented himself as being speech impaired but that claim was disproved later.

The ex-IG of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Nasir Durrani, who was tasked to carry out reforms in the Punjab police, resigned after what critics said was interference by politicians.

Now all efforts are being made to silence the family and divert the public attention. However, social media has become unmanageable for the Punjab police.

Initially, some reports claimed that Salahuddin had been suffering from a health ailment earlier and is believed to have died from a heart attack. He was rushed to the hospital after his illness worsened. An inquiry into the cause of his death has been ordered by the District Police Officer.

However, the police’s version got challenged after the family shared pictures of Salahudin’s dead body. Police have apparently beaten him to death. Human rights activist Jibran Nasir said that “while Police claims #Salahuddin died due to cardiac arrest and is quoting a senior doctor as saying there were no torture marks without sharing the actual report the pictures taken by Salahuddin’s family of his body before burial are harrowing.”

Advocate Hassan Niazi said: “Literally every part of the body has been tortured. How can IO AND SHO not be arrested. The case should be sent to model courts for trial.”

Meanwhile, Dr. Shahbaz Gill, spokesperson of Chief Minister Punjab, tweeted and announced that the concerned DSP has been suspended.

He also confirmed that two policemen have been arrested and an FIR has been registered against them. “They shall be given exemplary punishment,” he said.

Analysts believe that the case will become history once social media attention is lessened. There have been many cases of violence and torture which met the same met once the public did not follow them or media decided to take up any other issue.

Police Reforms

Recently, the Inspector General of Police Punjab (IGP) Captain Retired Arif Nawaz Khan has ordered to install CCTV cameras inside lockups of all 722 police stations of Punjab for stopping and eliminating incidents of torture during police custody and investigation. Before Eid, the Prime Minister paid surprise visits to police stations and noted inhumane treatment being met to the prisoners. He immediately ordered to improve the facilities so that nobody has to face any health related issues.

Read more: ATM robber in a viral video died during police interrogation

IG Punjab also directed to integrate the system with the central police office’s monitoring and control room for effective monitoring of these cameras. IG Punjab gave these directions to all RPOs, CPOs and DPOs by a directive. But it did not prove effective and a poor man died in police custody.

The PTI promised before coming into power to reform police and make it model institution. But after assuming the offices, the party has failed to introduce any change which might have impacted the performance of the police across the province. It has disappointed many of PTI’s supporters who were expecting to live in Naya Pakistan.

Analysts maintain that the PTI’s government did not focus on reforming police. Abdul Sattar, columnist and journalist, recently noted that “Let us begin with the independence of the police department and the current ruling elite’s claim to put an end to political influence. Soon after the government came into power, the DPO of Pakpattan was transferred – some say for merely doing his duty – something that shocked many admirers of Khan. The ex-IG of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Nasir Durrani, who was tasked to carry out reforms in the Punjab police, resigned after what critics said was interference by politicians. This further fuelled suspicions about the claims made by the new government, and later developments seemed to have vindicated them”.

The Islamabad police came under tremendous pressure when reportedly people belonging to federal minister Azam Swati’s side beat up a poor family close to the minister’s farmhouse. Interestingly the minister admitted to have encroached upon a few kanals of CDA land.”

Read more: Naya Pakistan: PTI government finally works on reforming Punjab Police

Sources claim that the project of de-politicization of police in Punjab became even difficult because of attitude of the local leadership who believes without accommodative police in the province, it is not possible to ensure the functioning of the government. In initial meetings with members of the provincial assembly the Prime Minister was also informed that Punjab has different political dynamics and cultural background as compared to KP.