October 26th, 2021
Former police officers and Inspector Generals (IG) have rendered their strong criticism of a possible government deal with the banned Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), stating that such a move will hurt police morale.
A few serving officers also expressed their reservations on this agreement on the condition of anonymity. It should be noted that at least two policemen were killed while several were injured in clashes with the proscribed organization just last week.
Former IG Afzal Shigri warned that if the government decided to show the TLP leniency a second time, the police will refrain from taking any action against the organization, giving its members free reign
“The next time such violence erupts, the police will do nothing to prevent it. And when that happens, it will spread chaos across the country,” he alerted. “The government should be smarter about this… if the police, the first line of defense, is ruined, then what will they do?”
“Governments remove police officials and IGs for the smallest incidents. As a result, the police have grown weak as an institution,” he said, complaining that governments use the police however they please but never stand by them.
Another former police officer, Salman Wahidi regretted that the police were being excluded from matters concerning Pakistan’s security.
We are never taken onboard. Decisions are taken without the input or consent of the police – it is an old tradition of this country,” he stated. “It is very unfortunate that for incidents where police personnel are injured or martyred, the government can so callously disregard them.”
Former IG Zulfiqar Cheema was of the view that the government should include police officials whenever in negotiations with the TLP in order to bolster the force’s confidence.
The TLP was included in Pakistan’s Fourth Schedule following a spate of violence by members of the right-wing group in Lahore in April this year. Following the arrest of their leader Saad Rizvi on April 12, members of the organization launched a series of protests calling for his immediate release, eventually culminating in violence that saw the death of at least three police officers while 26 others were reportedly injured with acid, and widespread destruction of property.
On April 18, TLP workers took 11 paramilitary officials and police officers hostage at the Nawankot Police Station. In a statement released by the provincial police, the attackers were armed with petrol bombs. The hostages were released the next morning.
With these latest riots, however, the government has decided on a softer approach toward the banned group, a move which has disgruntled the police. It remains to be seen whether the government will address the concerns of its law enforcement or once again push them aside in order to facilitate the TLP.