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Social media is the latest and most powerful tool to express outrage. The outrage on a particular incident or crime will determine the response that promises to be proportionate to the crime. The outrage and the response both remain incident-specific though. Two people who have made it to the headlines this time are Naqeebullah Mehsud, an innocent victim of a police encounter, and Rao Anwar, the SSP Malir who is said to be the guy behind the murder of Naqeebullah in a fake encounter.

Unlike the hundreds of encounters of nameless victims, supposedly hardened criminals and militants, Naqeebullah’s murder at the hands of the police became volatile, encouraging a response from no less than the Supreme Court of Pakistan, because the young man is said to be a social media star. The Pakhtuns in Karachi were enraged, drawing attention to the issue like never before. As of today, the concerned SSP’s sudden disappearance from the scene feeds the daily news cycle as news-people and citizens bay for his blood.

But amid this din, what lies ignored is the more serious issue of fake police encounters that are practised as an alternative and efficient policing method all across the country with total impunity. The issue is not new to this country but the way it has been consistently used to address all systemic problems is shocking to say the least. Who knows how many of those alleged ‘terrorists’ and ‘criminals’ that have been eliminated in these encounters were as innocent as Naqeebullah?

But that’s only stating half the problem. Actually, that is what the problem is. This is a kind of tacit admission that those captured by the system as criminals or militants/terrorists do not deserve due process and can be removed to ensure short-term peace. Due process is long-winded, it is faulty, so why not arm-twist the system and produce results? We keep seeing the mind-boggling statistics of police encounters in the space of a year but no one objects or questions. In fact, when somebody like Malik Ishaq is killed in a brazenly fake encounter, many of the sensible minds express their satisfaction.

Read also: Reality of fake encounters

Unfortunately, everything that concerns the reform of the police force has become so clichéd that it sounds ineffectual the moment it is uttered. Accountability (self or otherwise), safety commissions, informed citizenry as a check on the force, etc., have consistently failed to excite anyone in the government machinery, except some analysts. Judiciary, which is touted as the ultimate saviour and is indeed a self-proclaimed one, moves in when the media creates hype around one incident, leaving the system fractured as before.

Thus, we are left at the mercy of Chaudhry Aslams and Rao Anwars of this world who are nurtured by the malfunctioning criminal justice system to subvert it till they can. As the courts keep giving deadlines to capture the ‘criminal,’ the demands of speedy justice would keep throwing speedy solutions like police encounters. This is the reality of these fake encounters.



  • This must be a problem in many countries (think of how Zulfiqar Ali has been treated by Indonesia). I am referring to the treatment of suspects including extrajudicial killings (some police personnel in India are referred to by the press as “encounter specialists”) and of prisoners. The prison system worldwide needs great improvement. But how to achieve it?

  • After reading all about the reality of fake encounters, it is still beyond my understanding that why we rely on this method? why can’t we establish an effective criminal justice system? what hurdles prevent us from doing so?

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