April 22nd, 2021
By Rehan Piracha & Ahmed Saeed
Punjab police officials are upset and demoralised over the government’s sudden deal with the banned Tehreek-i-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) following clashes that led to martyrdom of two of their colleagues and injury to over a thousand personnel.
Under the agreement, the government released hundreds of workers of the TLP booked under Maintenance of Public Order for disrupting public life across the province. Officers from sub-inspector to deputy superintendent ranks spoke to Voicepk.net about their anguish over the government’s agreement with the proscribed organization. The police officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said they felt “demoralised and humiliated” when the government suddenly struck a deal with the banned extremist outfit just two days after the violent clashes at Chowk Yateem Khana. According to the Punjab police spokesperson, the clashes erupted after the “miscreants” attacked a police station and took 16 police officials hostage. All the hostages were released after a couple of hours with many of them having sustained injuries.
The rank and file of the Punjab police is confused about the government’s policy regarding the TLP, a police sub inspector from Lahore told Voicepk.net. “One day, the government terms them (TLP) as enemy of the state and the next day the government embraces them and signs an agreement with them,” the police official said. The confusion makes policing on the ground very difficult, he added.
The police official said a “lack of clear policy” always results in more loss of lives as evident in the recent clashes with the TLP.
According to the police spokesperson, two policemen were martyred while a thousand personnel injured in the violent clashes with the TLP workers that continued for at least six days in nearly all districts of the province. The violent mobs also torched scores of police vehicles.
A DSP-ranked officer told Voicepk.net that the police action against the TLP had shown that if the government provides proper backing, the law enforcement agencies have the capacity and power to deal with any miscreant elements. “We [The police] have successfully uprooted over 190 roadblocks without using any excessive force and killing anybody, it demonstrates our capabilities and resolve to tackle such law and order situation,” he said.
However, the police official lamented that the police faced a lot of pressure from the ruling party PTI lawmakers who wanted to get the arrested people released just for their petty political gains. “What we have learned from the TLP fiasco is that no matter what we do, the police force is destined for disgrace from all sides,” he said.
Police force a whipping boy of govt: former IGP
According to Afzal Shigri, former inspector general of Sindh police, the police force in the country has become the proverbial ‘whipping boy’ of civilian governments, referring to the European royal custom of tutors punishing a boy educated alongside a prince whenever the prince made a mistake. “Presently, the government will succumb to the pressure of any group or organization, regardless if it’s extremist or otherwise, that can muster enough strength on the streets to disrupt law and order,” Shigri told Voicepk.net.
Referring to the TLP clashes and ensuing agreement, the former police chief said successive civilian governments have lost will power in enforcing the writ of the State. “The interference in policing started decades ago when governments used police officials in a bid to prolong and strengthen their rule,” he said.
Shigri said police officials are also partly to blame for the sorry state of affairs that police personnel now find themselves in. “Many police officials have stopped resisting illegal orders in a bid to secure posting and promotions,” he said.
He said the only way to improve the law and order in the country is to empower the police force so that it could discharge its duties and responsibilities. “This has to be coupled with government oversight and a robust mechanism of accountability of the police personnel,” he said. If the government of the time fails to empower the police force, the country will likely witness more disruptions in law and order similar to the weeklong TLP clashes, he added.