In a metropolitan like Karachi, where it is difficult for an ordinary person to take the law into his/her hands for the civil society will resist any such attempt with all its might, there is one exception: SSP Malir, Rao Anwar. This man has many a time taken the law of the land into his own hands. The latest show resulted in the murder of four people including Naqeeb Mehsood, who Rao declared as a suspect terrorist. Due to strong protest across different cities of the country against Rao’s contempt for the law of the land, the higher-ups decided to probe into the matter.

However, Rao Anwar’s appearance before the probe committee is not enough. The issue is a grave one, i.e., extrajudicial killings. Even more problematic is the impunity with which law enforcement personnel carry out such illegal actions. State institutions act according to the plain meaning of the law, not according to their interpretation of statutes and rules.

The real issue in Naqeeb’s case is not him being a terrorist or not, but the extrajudicial killing and how comfortable the government is with it. It is not, by the way, first of its kind.

If the committee’s finding declares Naqeeb Mehsood not affiliated with TTP in the light of their findings, what action the department will take against SSP Malir? Considering the past record, it is difficult to be optimistic. It is important to recall that Rao Anwar, who oversaw the encounter, had been involved in a number of encounters of controversial nature.

Also the word encounter, in the Pakistani context, is used for extrajudicial murders by the state and is used in a romanticized context. Karachi has seen a rapid increase in the cases of extrajudicial killings in the last few years. And the problem is that the state, while fully aware of the illegality of it, chooses to remain silent over the matter.

Why are extrajudicial killings wrong after all one can argue that the people who know the law of the land well carry these killings? They are wrong for obvious reasons. First, such actions on the part of individuals do not reflect the will of the state. Second, killing someone without courts order is a violation of many fundamental rights including Articles 10, 10-A, 12, and 14 that the Constitution of Pakistan grant to its citizenry. Third, it defeats the purpose of police department existence in the first place. The police department is there to apprehend a crime, not to punish an offender. For sentencing an individual there is a detailed criminal justice system in the country.