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Since assumption of office early last month former Lahore Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) Umar Sheikh has demonstrated boundless capacity to offend civilized sensibilities. He provoked countrywide outrage and protests when he blamed a rape victim for being out alone so late at night with her children. Faced with relentless criticism he offered an apology to “my sister who was subjected to gang rape, as well as my sisters, brothers, and all strata of society.” Yet that episode proved like water off a duck’s back. A few days later appearing before the Senate Human Rights Committee for a briefing on the progress of the case, he had to be rebuked by the penal for expressing his misogynic presumption that the incident happened because the woman was travelling late at night without the permission of her husband. At the same event, he also floated his idea of introducing military style court martial in the Punjab Police.

Former CCPO Sheikh has since gone on to seriously pursue that outlandish proposal. In a letter to his boss, IGP Inam Ghani, he has asked that “the Government of Punjab be moved for new legislation regarding dedicated Accountability Rules for the [the] police department, including the process of Court Martial as available in the Pakistan Army, so that the police officers accountability/discipline may be ensured in the interest of general public.” Who in their right mind can make such a suggestion? The army, a fighting force and the police a public service organization require completely different kind of discipline. The army runs on the principle of unity of command for the simple but compelling reason that questioning the orders of a commanding officer in the middle of a war can lead to disastrous results. Police officers, on the other hand, are within their legal rights to disobey unlawful orders of their superiors. In supporting arguments of his proposal, he mentioned embezzlement of funds, particularly in the accounts branch, ignoring the fact that the alleged wrongdoers are not outside the purview of the country’s anti-corruption law and procedures.

RASHID GILL (LAHORE)

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020