Mobile phones banned in police stations

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Following a string of custodial deaths due to alleged torture in just the past week, the Punjab police has banned the use of cellphones by officers while on duty and barred them from capturing videos of other police personnel as well. Videos of the incidences of torture had been widely circulated on social media raising outrage.

However, citizens and media personnel will not be banned from taking them inside.

A notification sent by the additional inspector general on behalf of the Punjab Inspector General of Police Arif Nawaz to all Punjab police officers stated that it had been observed that police officials were using mobile phones while on duty even though “clear directions in this regard have already been conveyed to all field formations”. It added that it was the responsibility of the field formations “to get these instructions/directions/SOPs implemented in letter and spirit.”

The notification further read: “Frequent violations of these directions/SOPs reflect badly on the performance of supervising officers. In future, no officer below the rank of SHO (Station House Officer) or in-charge of a deployed duty will use [a] cellphone while on duty.”

Lower-ranking officers will instead be allowed to use ordinary phones that do not have the video recording feature.

The letter asserted that it was “strictly forbidden” to make a video of police officers on duty or upload a video of police officers performing their duty and any violation will result in “severe departmental action” against the police personnel involved as well as their supervisory officer.

At least three cases of police torture had surfaced last week including that of the infamous ATM robber Salahuddin Ayubi. Punjab IG expressed extreme displeasure over these deaths in police custody and said that the recent deaths and maltreatment in police custody indicated the irresponsible behaviour of field and senior police officials. The police chief warned that DPOs, SPs, SDPOs and supervisory officers would be held responsible if any such case surfaced again in the future.

Police brutality is a topic which has long been debated. In this regard, Spokesperson to Punjab Chief Minister Dr Shahbaz Gill on Sunday had said that the provincial government would soon introduce reforms in the police force and that a summary in this regard has been sent to Prime Minister Imran Khan for final review.

Criticising the previous governments, Gill said that police were used as a tool for political victimisation in the past but now things would change. He asserted that the present government is striving hard to make things better, adding that a positive change would be visible within six months.

Prime Minister Imran Khan on several occasions has iterated the government’s commitment to bring reforms in the police force to so as to improve its performance. PM Imran had said that he wanted to see independent police in the country.

Meanwhile, this development created outrage on social media.

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