Dwindling police-image; Mental training should be the priority.

Security personnel who were presumed to provide safety and confidence to their masses have been coming off a source of revulsion, alienating the same people they are supposed to serve.

In 2018, Naqeeb Ullah Mehsud was killed by SSP Rao Anwer in a fake encounter leading to the national rise of PTM. The following year, in 2019, a family was killed by Punjab Counter-Terrorism Department(CTD) during an alleged terrorism encounter in Sahiwal before their little children. Not enough, right? In the same year, a person from minority, Amir Maseeh and another mentally disabled person were killed in the police custody. Cops barbarity, however, has not just remained limited to Punjab or Sindh. In a province, where Police reforms have been much touted, a young man, Amir Tehkal was badly tortured and humiliated by the police for his alleged video where he was seen abusing security personnel. With every disturbing event largely coming from our security personnel, we see our system jolting with a shock anticipating a radical push, bringing culprits to the dock of courts and paying for the hurt-party. In reality, however, it has yet to make any difference even in principle not to mention pragmatic.

We almost forget immediately after every incident-the negative role that our guardians have been playing- except that they never miss any opportunity to remind us. This time, although, it didn’t happen in any of the provinces, where the lawlessness by law enforcement has become a commonplace but in one of the beautiful and peaceful capitals, Islamabad. We were heading with our mundane routine when news on social media started taking rounds, once again outraging us to the core. Osama Naseem Setti, 22-year-old was reported to have been shot by Islamabad police. It would not have made to the social media if the father of Osama had not taken his case to the public-court and it proved practical. The outrage of the public forced the higher ranks to take immediate action and take the grieved family into confidence. What will happen to the apparent culprits is yet to be seen, but what about now?

Time and again, we decry the poor performance of our security personnel and even press the need for reforms in our police system. From capacity building to physical training, to de-politicisation to external accountability to the need for community building, hardly we talk about another important aspect of human being, MENTAL HEALTH. We have always focused on the outer surface of the human giving relatively no attention to the inner workings. Whether it was the case of Naqeeb, Salahudin, Amir or Osama satti, some of the things were strangely common to all of the incidents; APATHY, Peer-pressure or being an accomplice in crime, shortsightedness and lack of control. I will talk about one case, Osama’s, which will apply to all of the cases.

Time and again, we decry the poor performance of our personnel security and even press the need for reforms in our police system. Nevertheless, we have always focused on the outer surface of the humans giving relatively no attention to the inner workings.

Though, the security personnel must have rough and tough posture, not letting their emotions getting in the way of their duties, totally doing away with empathy equalises them with beasts. It’s the empathy that differentiates humans from another being. In the case of Osama, however, lack of empathy was on a full display. In psychology, carl Roger teaches us UNCONDITIONAL POSITIVE REGARD, treating humans like humans without being judgmental about their acts. “Hate the crime, not the criminal” in our system, however, criminals are treated like animals or maybe worse than; all because once someone is labelled with “criminal” in our view, one loses any claim to human rights. Osama was not a criminal neither Salahudin but they became the prey of the system that doesn’t consider criminals entitled to have any right. The second negative aspect of all these accounts has been the short-sightedness of our security personnel. Are they not taught about critical evaluation, analysing cost-benefits of their actions and the long term consequences attached to those decisions? In every case, the illicit moves seemed way abrupt and to seek immediate pleasure. In the Osama case, it was the exchange of words that ruffled the feathers of security personnel accordingly leading to the murder of the teen. Again, short-sighted.

Reportedly the exchange of offensive words between the teen and security personnel infuriated the alleged culprits and they even threatened him of some bad consequences, revealing another bad trait, lack of control over anger. Anger is necessary if they are directed and projected in the right direction but if it’s being vented out on the same people that police are supposed to help, obviously, it’s a deadly weapon that could kill its owner even if metaphorically. And finally, it’s the peer pressure or being an accomplice of the wrongdoer. In every incident, we have found our police accompanying their boss who is involved in some illegal activities. Why others follow him? The pressure of the senior or just being the part of any activity? Anomalies could be with the one person, perhaps he is angry, maybe he lacks empathy but all of them cannot have the very identical reaction to an extremely horrendous event?

Whether it was the case of Naqeeb, Salahudin, Amir or Osama satti, some of the things were strangely common to all of the incidents; APATHY, Peer-pressure or being an accomplice in crime, shortsightedness and lack of control.

Undoubtedly, it was the want of the fear of being caught that police exercised extrajudicial killing in cold-blood and with such impunity. If they had even a minute inkling of being accountable they would never have done that, but they were confident of the loopholes in our system. Again, we need our system to have reforms but they should not stay limited only to the physique, they should be stretched even to mental issues. Stress management, anger control, having empathy and staying vigilant to the law should run in their veins. If not frequently, there should be the sessions of counselling once in a while, to keep their touch with nature. It’s not to say that the police system is corrupt en mass but dealing only with corrupt-officers (in this case 5 officers) would reduce the issue, only to those corrupt officers leaving the loopholes untreated. unless we work on these flaws, our system would continue to disappoint its public.

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  1. SAMEER KHAN says

    An excellent writing.
    The writer has provided a base for police reforms. The government needs to involve psychologists in the police reforms process.

  2. Salman Saeee says

    An eloquently written article. Incorporating psychologists in LEA’s personal’s training is the need of hour.

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