Usama Satti: The case of Police Brutality

Dr Nosharwan Arbab Abbasi

SINCE the extrajudicial killing of a 21-year-old Usama Satti, I was feeling quite upset and wanted to raise my voice. Both online and offline protests showed outrage sparked after this incident among the public. Sentiments of netizens on social media are self-explanatory and this response to such incidents is natural. People started protesting, demanding justice and have shown overwhelming concerns for their security in the hands of unprofessional cops. Memories of the Sahiwal incident were not faded yet whilst another similar incident shocked us and left many in despair.

Anti-Terrorist-Squad (ATS) was meant for helping counter-terrorism activities and dealing with terrorists but their personnel murdered an innocent citizen. 22 shots on Usama Satti’s vehicle near G-10 brings a moment of shame for Islamabad police and ATS. According to reports, there were five ATS squad members who followed the vehicle and started firing on tires to stop the vehicle. But the later story tells a different perspective where bullets were also fired from the front of the car to ensure the killing.

There were encounter specialists in Punjab and Sindh police and Imran Khan promised police reforms to end encounter culture but ironically this happened in his government and within the capital city. Can this incident be the defining moment for Imran Khan to start reforms in the police? Islamabad police can be a test case for both Prime Minister and Interior Minister to start police reforms. Though it’s a long-term process and may take years to implement but policing Police is a must to avoid such incidents in future.
Five personals who were involved in this case were arrested and a JIT has also been constituted and a probe, in this case, has been initiated.

Here comes another question mark on JIT, it has become a common practice that after any incident just constitutes a team of JIT to probe the case and then forget about the proceedings. Will this JIT be able to bring an impartial and objective report of this incident? And will justice prevail? To get answers to these questions we will have to wait for yet another incident. Soon after this incident, a large number of social media users expressed their outrage over the incident and demanded the resignation of the Interior Minister.

Many netizens considered this as police brutality and started discussing previous incidents that happened due to negligence and incompetence of law enforcement agencies. Media consent appeared with images of victims from previous police torture and extrajudicial killings. Although, government representatives reached the victim’s family and ensured full cooperation in bringing and fighting for justice. Sadaqat Ali Abbasi met family members and recorded their demands while the public demanded a quick arrest of police officials involved in this killing and constitute judicial inquiry of this particular incident.

Political statements from local leadership have been appreciated by locals but concerns are still shown based on previous experience of such incidents. Politicians make promises following every incident but no fruitful steps have ever been taken to ensure no such incident happens in the future. If pertinent steps are taken with interest and involvement to address public concerns related to law enforcement agencies, such incidents can be avoided. However, effective Police reforms are ineluctable and require three major areas to reconsider and refresh.

The first step should be towards capacity building of police and particularly ATS and security squads on the road. To handle situations and differentiate between innocent citizens and terrorists can only be possible with professional training. Pakistan Army has spent years dealing with terrorism, they are well trained and equipped with resources to investigate. However, a major gap and capacity lag exist within police when it comes to handling law and order situation in cities. The concept of community policy must be introduced while dealing with the general public and it can ease major challenges. If this can be implemented in the KP, it could also be replicated in other provinces and the federal capital.

Secondly, there is a perception in Pakistan that Police is inefficient incompetent and corrupt which must be addressed. A major reason for such poor conditions is political influence and political pressure which leads to a dead-end for police reforms. Police must be independent so that they can be held responsible for what they do while performing their duties. If the police are independent they can better take care of their duties and properly allocate their resources where required.

For quite a long time it has become a common perception that the police department is not getting enough resources to carry out their day-to-day duties which resulted in the use of unofficial means and resources. The third most important element which needs special attention and policymaking is the review of colonial law. To reform laws our judiciary must take action and help lawmakers to constitute a revised and updated legal framework. In the past, numerous Commissions were constituted to bring reforms in the police but not a single one was able to bring any positive result.

Politicians also hold this responsibility of using the police department for their political gains and they are major actors in resisting reforms. Police reforms can bring a sigh of relief to the public and improve the law and order situation of Pakistan. They can become a major helping hand for defence forces in counter-terrorism, internal security challenges and sharing responsibility to counter internal security threats.

—The writer is PhD from Communication University of China and Lecturer at NUML University.

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