LAHORE - Five Shahdara cops are on the run after a detainee succumbed to torture in lockup on Friday, sources revealed.

After taking oath on Thursday, the chief minister promised that he would leave no stone unturned to bring reform in the police culture in order to improve the working and attitude of the country’s largest law enforcing agency.

“All the five policemen are at large. A (murder) case has been registered against them and the police are hunting for the colleagues,” Muhammad Yousaf, duty-officer at the Shahdara police station said. The body of the deceased, identified as Muhammad Siraj, 34, was shifted to morgue for autopsy.

Sources said that a police team headed by sub inspector Afzal Virk picked up the accused Siraj during routine patrolling and took him to the police station. The policemen were ‘interrogating’ the suspect when his condition got deteriorated. The man was rushed to the hospital, where he expired. A police official said that neither the deceased had criminal record nor any case was registered against him.

“It is yet to be ascertained why the policemen detained the man and why they were interrogating him,” Jahanzaib Khan, SP City police division said, when contacted.

A murder case (under section 302 of the PPC) has been registered against police officials including Sub inspector Afzal Virk, and constables Ali Raza, Iftikhar, Mukhtar and Nasir Javed, who escaped from the police station minutes after the accused expired in the hospital during medical treatment. The cops kept the man in illegal detention and tortured him in the lock-up of the Shahdara police station, resulting in his death.

Another police source revealed that the victim had been pronounced as brought dead by the doctors in the Mayo hospital on early Friday. “In fact, the man expired in the lock-up because of brutal police torture,” an official said.

The police handed over the body to the deceased’s family after the autopsy. The poor family members of the deceased also staged protest demonstration against the police highhandedness before receiving the dead body. “Why the police killed him? What crime he did commit? He was tortured to death because he was unable to bribe the cops,” questioned Munir Ahmed, a relative of the deceased while talking to reporters outside the city mortuary on Friday evening. Sources close to the doctors, who examined the body, disclosed to The Nation that there were sever torture marks on the body parts of the deceased.

Apart from the cases of police brutality, the incidents of custodial killings and illegal detentions are common in the Punjab province, widely assumed as a police state. The new government has pledged the much-needed police reforms this time again though the same regime badly failed to bring any positive change in the typical policing during their previous five-year tenure.

In April, five cops of Harbanspura police allegedly killed a 30-year-old man after kidnapping him and subjecting him to severe torture in Lahore. The victim’s body was recovered from the canal in the Mughalpura police limits.

In May 2012, hundreds of local residents staged a strong protest demonstration at Ferozepur Road, following a 30-year-old motor mechanic succumbed to police torture at a private detention centre. A team of Batapur police had arrested Irfan Ahmed, a resident of Makka Colony, and he was being grilled in connection with a vehicle-theft case when he expired. The police had kept him in illegal custody at a private torture cell fro several days. Later, an inquiry report revealed that the policemen applied third-degree methods during interrogation and badly tortured the man, who succumbed to police torture in the private cell. The cops fled away after throwing his body into the Chachar canal.