There is a general perception that, compared to rest of the provinces, the police in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) is slightly better in public dealings. It is said that the situation has improved over the last few years, especially after the KP government appointed Nasir Khan Durrani as head of the provincial police force in mid-2013. He retired in March 2017.
Durrani not only discouraged corruption but also made it clear to the police that there would be no extrajudicial killings. Policemen were directed that all those involved in any kind of terrorism or crime will be arrested and produced before the court.
The policy was conveyed to all the regional police officers and district police heads, most of whom made every effort to implement it at the police station level.
The Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) of the KP Police and the investigation wing of the force have been strengthened and trained during the last few years to make sure the arrested militants and criminals are duly punished by the courts. The policy is still in place and there have been hardly any incidents in the last couple of years where the courts were approached with a complaint that an encounter was staged.
“I don’t think we had to deal with an issue of fake encounters in the last few years,” says Salahuddin Khan Mahsud, Inspector General of Police in KP.
“There are probably a couple of incidents like in Mardan where police mistakenly shot a mentally challenged boy during a high alert. Even in such cases we arrest the policemen, register a case and conduct proper inquiry and investigation,” he adds.
The police have been strictly warned against fake encounters and directed to arrest the culprits and produce them before the law after sound investigation, he says.
In the last four years, over 850 police officials have been dismissed from service while other actions were also taken against hundreds of them for misuse of power, corruption and connections with criminals. This has diminished the chances of staging encounters as it could land the police in-charge in trouble.
In the 1990s and early 2000s, there were occasions when courts were moved and people took to streets against police officers and staff for murdering innocent people in staged encounters. Some of the police officials were infamous for staging encounters.
Different political parties also joined these protests against the police and the then government. The killing of young Kashmir Khan in an alleged fake encounter in the limits of Bhana Mari police station in 2002 in Peshawar remained the talk of the town for several weeks after it was taken up by the media.
Giving some details of police encounters in the provincial capital in 2017, senior superintendent of police investigation Peshawar, Nisar Ahmad Khan, says police exchanged fire with militants and criminals 28 times during the last year. “All of these incidents took place when the police were attacked at checkposts or during the raids.”
A number of criminals and some important militant commanders were killed in these encounters which also resulted in the death and injuries of police personnel, he adds.
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“As per my knowledge, two cases of fake police encounters were reported in the province in the last few years,” says Akhtar Amin, a senior reporter covering the courts proceedings in Peshawar.
“In one case, parents of a young resident of Nothia locality in Peshawar moved the Peshawar High Court against police officers and claimed that their son was killed in a staged encounter but the fake encounter was not proved in the court,” he informs.
“In the second case, former KP police chief, Nasir Khan Durrani, suspended Rehmatullah, a Station House Officer (SHO) of Khazana in Peshawar on charges of fake police encounter.“ The SHO was suspended and an inquiry was ordered in the Khazana incident after the locals staged protests and complained that a villager was killed in the fake police encounter. The police officer, however, was cleared after no evidence was found that the encounter was staged,” he adds.