Police torture case shakes Pakistan’s media landscape

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‘Where did you learn to torture people?’

Social Media in Pakistan have erupted in protest after a mentally handicapped, ATM robber died in Police custody in Rahim Yar Khan, Punjab. It was one of the many incidents where police allegedly killed people through torture or in fake encounters.

Hashtags like #Salahuddin, #IamSalahuddin and #JusticeforSalahddin continue to top twitter trends in Pakistan since his death on Sunday while in police custody. Social media users registered strong anger and condemnation for police and called for their accountability.

What amounts to a silver lining in the otherwise dark cloud, the social media users transcended their political differences to demand justice for the victim. He had already shot to fame after video footage of him sticking out his tongue mockingly at the CCTV camera of the ATM he was breaking, went viral. His family claims he was mentally deranged and was arrested multiple times before only to be released soon after due to his mental state. He however ran out of luck this time. Social media users posed like Salahuddin to protest his alleged murder.

They joined in highlighting the toxic thana culture in the country that claimed so many lives before and continues to do so. Even while Salahuddin’s case is hot, two more people have been allegedly tortured to death by police in Punjab and K-P.

Rahimyar Khan Police denies the charges and claims the accused died of cardiac arrest.

Even a medical team at the Sheikh Zaid Hospital validated the police’ claims by affirming that Salahuddin’s body bore no torture marks.

These pictures and two videos showing Salahddin being investigated and tortured added fuel to the rage on social media.

In one of the videos, he asks his tormentors innocently, ‘Can I ask something? Promise you will not beat me. Where have you learnt to torture people?” Lot of people on social media found this a tearjerker.

The event also ignited the painful memories of the Sahiwal police shootout and murders of Naqeebullah Mehsud in Karachi and Professor Arman Looni in Balochistan. Social media users reminded the authorities that all these victims of police and law enforcement agencies’ brutality await justice despite tall claims and promises of the government.

The mainstream media also took up the issue and highlighted the pressing need for police reforms and system of accountability in the country.

Journalist Asha’ar Rehman wrote Salahuddin departed mocking an entire system that is often desperately dependent on violence as a means of sustaining itself.

Top television shows also highlighted the case and called for a robust accountability mechanism in Pakistan’s criminal justice system.

The government has responded to the protest by ordering a judicial inquiry into the case.


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