In September 2013 the federal cabinet approved amendments to the anti-terrorism bill giving more powers to the Rangers in order to restore law and order in Karachi. The amendments allowed Rangers personnel to ‘use force’ to prevent a terrorist act, and also stated that target killers, extortionists and kidnappers will also be treated as ‘terrorists’ and that the armed forces or civil armed forces will be authorized to detain suspects for up to three months to carry out investigations.
The laws seemed quite promising given the worst security situation in the provincial capital. It was believed that the additional powers extended to the law enforcers would be used towards purging the city of crimes and criminal elements. But, alas, the ground realities, unfortunately, are very frustrating for the citizens.
On the night of 6th March 2014 I along with my friend was travelling in his car in the North Nazimabad area of Karachi when my friend, who was driving, took a slight turn on the wrong side of the road to avoid going through a roundabout. Just as he turned the car towards the service lane we came across a Rangers’ sergeant who signaled us to stop the car. Expecting a quick snap check, a routine for boys in the city, we got out of the car, greeted the personnel and politely asked the reason for stopping us. The paramilitary man who had signaled us to halt began using foul language and asked us whether we were aware of traffic laws. Being at fault, we immediately apologized for the mistake. Without lending an ear to our apology, he took us to bearded guy sitting on the driver seat of the Rangers’ patrolling van.
He, in an authoritative tone began speaking to another one, saying, ‘in ko batao zara, ke road pe gari kaise chelate hain’ (teach them how to drive a car on the road). It seemed strange, as they were not traffic police and obviously not sending us for a driving class. The guy he called was huge with a dreadful face. He instructed us to move behind the van, away from public view. To our shock, he asked us to hold each others’ ears and do one hundred sit-ups, as a ‘punishment’. At first we couldn’t believe our ears, so we tried to reason with him. I requested him that for a petty offense like this we should just get a ticket and be allowed to leave. This infuriated him and with a firm voice he ordered us again to carry out his ‘commands ’.
This was already too much for us. The security forces that we are taught from childhood to look up to and respect were now persecuting us, apparently for no crime. Well, we still underestimated the gravity of the situation and turned to request him once again to let us leave but in an instant, without any warning, he hit my leg with his baton. It was a hard blow, a real cracking one indeed. Now I knew it was futile to argue, as it would only invite his ire. We went back to doing our sit-ups while holding each others’ ears. My legs began to ache but the mental pain of humiliation was more tormenting than the one from physical punishment. Two educated citizens were being treated like toddlers, behind a military van virtually at a gun-point. We didn’t know when he would replace his baton with a gun. We barely did twenty when one of them asked us to stop. This one was marginally reasonable and I am saying this because at least he listened to what we said. Then they asked us about our documents and a few more things and then set us free. We left; I had a deep mark on my thigh, but a deeper one on my mind. It’s been a week now and the incident still keeps replaying in our minds. We feel we were subjected to victimization for a paltry crime of driving a few yards on a wrong side. I admit that we violated a traffic regulation but were forced to undergo an arbitrary punishment – a treatment that no civilized person should deserve.
The behavior of Sind Rangers in Karachi is becoming the center of controversy these days. A few days ago, a Rangers man shot dead a young man and wounded his wife in the North Karachi area. This extra judicial killing cannot be justified at all. Similar incidents have taken place before as well.
It seems the Rangers have been given more powers than they are capable of wielding. They seemed to have forgotten that they are because we are. They are there to serve the citizens by making them feel protected.
Unable to fulfill their primary duties and apparently frustrated at the hands of criminal elements, Rangers now seem to be taking it out on innocent citizens.