Pakistan’s Brutish Trend of Extrajudicial Killings by Shaista Sindhu

The recent encounter-style killing at Sahiwal is the latest in extrajudicial killings in this country.

Pakistan’s leading human rights organization, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) expressed its horror at this incident. In a statement the HRCP said that, “‘increasingly, it appears that what was initially termed “an encounter with terrorists” was the unnecessary, violent death of four people, including two parents and their teenage daughter. ‘This incident is deeply troubling at several levels. The first is the alleged absence of any sign of due process.”

Further, “There is no question that the violence perpetrated by terrorist organizations must be eliminated. However, ‘encounter killings’ that rapidly resurface as ‘extrajudicial murders’ – once more and more facts emerge and are verified – simply cannot continue to be argued as a “necessary evil” to uphold the rule of law. ‘Second, that this incident should initially have been brushed off as “collateral damage” is a dire sign of how high our tolerance for impunity – as a state and society – has risen. Third, the rate at which accounts of the incident have changed and the contradictions therein point to a distorted mechanism that betrays little coordination between the various branches of the state concerned. This needs to be rectified swiftly.”

Finally, “‘HRCP reiterates the need for investing heavily and sensibly in law enforcement agency reforms and training that will help minimize the incidence of ‘encounter’ killings. Equally, all law enforcement personnel as well as the public, the media and the people’s elected representatives must be sensitized to the state’s constitutional duty to ensure that no person should be “deprived of life or liberty save in accordance with the law”. A key part of this implies understanding that the second clause of this fundamental right is not an excuse to widen the net to include ‘encounter’ killings. It goes without saying that perpetrators of extrajudicial killings at the highest level must be punished under the law – and not protected – if this brutish trend is to be curtailed.”

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