Farah Adeed |
It is very unfortunate to begin with that a gang of Punjab police is busy in harassing, threatening and blackmailing young couples in the provincial capital. Pakistan Today reported on the eve of October 5th that three police officers stopped a young boy and his friend near Ghalib Market on October 1st. The couple was then threatened and asked to pay some money to avoid any inconvenience.
Meanwhile, the girl managed to send a text to her friend who happened to be a son of provincial minister Mr. Mehmoodur Rashid. A few friends of the couple just reached at the scene, took the police officers with them and went away. Later on, the police registered an FIR against the friends of the couple for allegedly kidnapping, harassing and threatening the police officers who were on duty.
The PTI-led government must ensure that the young couples in Lahore are not harassed by the blackmailers in uniform. This is possible only when the CM Punjab and his companion commit to making the police operationally independent.
Fortunately, friends of the couple snatched the cell phone of a police officer who was making a video of the whole incident. The video which is available on YouTube and Facebook revealed that the police officers were trying to blackmail the couple; besides, beating up the boy who was repeatedly saying “Sir, I am out of my car now. Please listen to me.”
Shockingly, the social media team of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) took up the matter and blamed the son of the provincial minister for allegedly being with a girl in a comprising state. This is sad to see that how much politics can sink to in this country. This case needs to be understood in a wider socio-political context of Pakistan in order to comprehend the gravity of the matter.
Lahore is the biggest city of Punjab where girls and boys come all across the country for study or jobs. Openness, social inclusiveness, and tolerance are the defining ingredients of Lahori culture. There are people from Balochistan, Sindh, KPK and Gilgit studying and living in Lahore. Lahore welcomes everyone and offers everyone knowledge and careers. Students from diverse backgrounds come to Lahore and get admission in various colleges and universities to complete their education.
They meet students/colleagues from other cultures, share their ideas and become friends. It is also important to mention here that some of them fall in love and develop some serious relationships. There are different restaurants and cafes where these young girls and boys go regularly and take tea and coffee. Most of the students and particularly girls belong to conservative families.
The girl managed to send a text to her friend who happened to be a son of provincial minister Mr. Mehmoodur Rashid. A few friends of the couple just reached at the scene, took the police officers with them and went away.
They rarely share with their families about their male friends or relationships with someone from different social background. In such a situation, the Punjab police is taking advantage of the matter. Couples on bikes and cars are reportedly stopped by the Jawans of Punjab police and asked to produce their Nikhnamas. If they fail to produce it, they are asked either to go to the police station or give some money as bribe.
Some of the male victims told me that they were asked to give contact details of their female friends as well. Police officers do understand that a girl studying in Lahore does not afford to be filmed and brought to the police station. A fragile sense of family honor may lead towards a tragic end of an innocent life. Therefore, these young couples have to give whatever they are asked to in order to protect the honor of their families.
Moreover, the behavior of the Punjab police in Lahore is dismaying. It is embarrassing to note that these officers are focusing more on what young couples are doing in the city instead of establishing rule of law and arresting those who disturb the peace of the society. my friends at Punjab university often tell me that they were stopped by the Punjab police and they had to pay 30 rupees (for tea) to get rid of an unnecessary arrest.
There are different restaurants and cafes where these young girls and boys go regularly and take tea and coffee. Most of the students and particularly girls belong to conservative families.
It is worth mentioning here that many of the prostitutes working in Lahore are tired of the officers of Punjab police. It is reported that these officers do not let them go with anyone rather they target those approaching the prostitutes, take half of the money and use the sex workers without giving anything to them. There is no denying of the fact that since the police are used for political purposes in Pakistan, there is a lack of professionalism in the institution.
The current government was expected to de-politicize the police in Punjab but it was badly exposed in DPO Pakpattan case where the CM Punjab played a role in the transfer of an officer. This is the main reason behind the ongoing case against the apparently-innocent couple and their friends by the police officers who tried to break all the laws and behaved like hardcore blackmailers.
To reform the police and to make it what Dr. Moeed Pirzada has described in his piece in 2014, an operationally independent police to establish a genuine representative democracy, the roles of media, civil society and government are imperative. The PTI-led government must ensure that the young couples in Lahore are not harassed by the blackmailers in uniform. This is possible only when the CM Punjab and his companion commit to making the police operationally independent.
Farah Adeed is a Senior Research Analyst in GVS. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s Editorial Policy.