The other side of ‘police brutality’

THE police action in Karachi’s Mujahid Colony recently elicited a range of responses and reactions, with some calling it a sign of regression in society and calling the action a show of police brutality. Indeed, Pakistan is regressing, and the extent of its decline can be measured from our inability to call a spade a spade. There is nothing ‘so-called’ about the encroachments in Mujahid Colony, and the fact remains that they were blatant encroachments on a 150 feet-wide road, two stormwater drains and one 24-inch freshwater line as per the Karachi master plan.

The question of legality is often so conveniently shrugged off by citing ‘controversy’ as a reason, whereas the core reason for the whole strenuous drive was the legality of it. The demolition of houses in Mujahid Colony started in October last year, much after first notices were served in August by Karachi Development Authority (KDA), giving occupants ample time to react and provide whatever documents they may have, if any.

The whole operation was initiated on the directions of the Supreme Court to restore the master plan of Karachi. Prior to this, multiple bigger drives had been carried out on the same lines and for the same reasons, like in Gujjar Nullah, Kidney Hill Park, Empress Market and other areas.

Despite months since notices were served, the occupants failed to provide any legal document to any of the relevant offices, including KDA, deputy commissioner’s office or Sindh Katchi Abadis Authority. Their petition was also dismissed by the Sindh High Court. Then again, the drive was planned in multiple phases. In the initial phase, commercial units, shops and hotels were removed, while the progression was made gradually, giving sufficient time to the residents to vacate the area.

Usually, during such drives, private contractors are tendered to demolish and take away whatever iron or valuables are collected. This way, not only the government expenditure is saved, the contractors pay to the exchequer. A prime example of this was the demo- lition of Nasla Tower. However, the drive in Mujahid Colony did not opt for such a strategy.

Instead, the occupants were allowed to take their valuables which gave instant cash to them to help them find an alternative, while detailed data was being submitted to the government for any relief that the government may allow.

Talking of the day when the action was executed, police reacted to the assault on state functionaries, where seven officials were injured and multiple vehicles were damaged as a result of stone pelting. Video and documentary evidence in this regard is available.

After going through reactions of alleged ‘police brutality’, I asked for detailed report from the relevant Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP). It can be said with surety that no minor girl was arrested and the allegation of urine having been offered instead of water is baseless, disgusting and sickening.

Three women and 11 men were arrested as a reaction to their violent protest. The women were initially brought to Nazimabad and then within 15 minutes were sent to the women police station in Liaquatabad. The entry records are available.

By the evening, not only women but all the arrested persons were released. Not a single person was detained overnight, while no casualty or injury to any member of the public occurred during the drive.

State functionaries remained humane while dealing with families and kept giving them time extensions regularly. A woman assistant commissioner, along with women police, remained on the ground throughout the operation to ensure the sanctity of households. This can be verified by the residents.

I do agree that we need more training to make our law-enforcers more professional, but police were not used as a ‘personal tool’ in the current case. They performed their duty to restore the master plan of Karachi under the strict directions of the Supreme Court.

Taha Saleem
Deputy Commissioner, Central District

Published in Dawn, January 25th, 2023