A Note Kashmiri Police

For the first few weeks I didn’t really notice the police here except for the occasional check point. There are two forces operating here, one, the police force I’ve seen depicted on the telly; paunch men wearing black uniforms and carrying short canes, the other, the traffic police who wear a grey uniform and tend to be younger. The latter is more visible on the streets of towns, with the former manning check points, making arrests, extracting confessions, securing official events and operating the police station. The traffic police are more like the bobby on the beat in England, they issue fines, enforce traffic restrictions, intervene in minor incidents and radio ahead to the regular police if needed.

I have been told that there is no real rule of law in Pakistan/Kashmir but having spent time here and speaking to people this varies from city to city and between Kashmir and Pakistan. In Karachi you can pay your way out of murdering someone, in Kashmir you will go to jail for the crime. In the past the police here were not provided with any form of transport, instead they would commandeer a passing car in order to make a pursuit or a visit. The driver would have to oblige and there was no hope of being compensated for petrol or time. People feared the police. Now, with with the relative affluence that has arrived in these parts, they drive well maintained Toyota pick ups and motor cycles but are not feared as much and people will often argue with them if they are not happy with something. They are also paid well, for example the take home pay of a traffic policeman is 25000Rps per month. This was intended to wipe out any taking of bribes. It has mostly worked, but as they don’t always get fuel expenses for their vehicles this could provide an avenue for those who are willing to accept a bribe.

Apart from the excellent salary, the vehicles and the smart uniforms they lack the backup teams needed to investigate crimes or follow up leads. For example there is nothing equivalent to the crime scene investigation teams, or CCTV camera network the regular police in the UK use. In the absence of such devices the police will often use force to get people to talk and prove guilt. This mostly takes the form of slapping and caning of the suspect. Officially torture is forbidden and if evidence of this bought before a judge it can jeopardize a case. This has led the police to become inventive when it comes to extracting confessions. For example one traffic policeman told me of a man who was questioned for the theft of 14 Jeeps in Muzafarabad, Azad Kashmir. He wouldn’t talk; so the traffic policeman was told by his superior to purchase some chillies and a piece of plastic piping. The chillies were then boiled in water and allowed to cool. The pipe was tapered on one end and inserted into the rear end of the suspect and the chillies poured in. After this the suspect spoke up.

I get the impression that everyone who is brought in for questioning is roughed up in some way, but they are always men. However, for lesser crimes, or those of a higher station in life or with the money, you can escape all this. Justice and money seem to be interchangeable entities for lesser crimes such as theft of property possession of alcohol.

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