LAHORE - Many professionals and students had to face police brutalities late Saturday night as cops raided a three-storey hostel in the name of National Action Plan .

Dozens of policemen raided the Al-Karim Hostel in Patiala House in GOR-I and arrested more than 45 persons. Some of them were blindfolded and the others were bundled into police vans as they were taken to the Race Course police station for interrogation.

The police department had been tasked to implement the NAP, a campaign launched in January to quell extremism and crush militancy from all over the country. The federal government had drafted the much-debated strategy, being dubbed as the Nation Action Plan, after the massacre of schoolchildren in Peshawar in December last.

Ironically, the young students and professionals were put behind the bars for several hours despite the fact that they showed valid documents to the police for the verification process. Police however, released most of the victims after keeping them in illegal detention for several hours.

Among them were journalists, government officers, lawyers, doctors, engineers, and students. Some of the students were preparing for the superior services exam when the police stormed into the hostel. The police arrested all the residents after door to door search.

Police thrashed, punched, and dragged the hostel residents as they argued and asked why they were being locked up. “We were treated like terrorists. The corrupt cops are unable to capture criminals and militants. But, in frustration, they are multiplying the miseries of citizens,” said Fida Hussnain, who works for daily The Nation.

Hussnain said the so-called police operation was just like a house-robbery attempt. “The cops were searching for valuables in the rooms and even in cupboards. At one stage, we thought they were (actually) robbers in police uniform”.

Many victims complained that the policemen took away cash, mobile phones, and accessories like USBs, and battery chargers during the search.

Ahsan Qadir, another journalist, said he immediately produced ID papers before the police as they burst into the building. “We were roughed up and taken to the police station like criminals. We were locked up along with robbers”. Qadir said that the policemen thrashed students when they tried to contact their families by using cellular phones. “The police seized and switched off our mobile phones,” he held.

The mid-night raids triggered protests in the highly-guarded locality as friends and relatives of the victims gathered outside the Race Course police station. They chanted full-throat slogans against the police and provincial government.

Punjab IGP Mushtaq Ahmad Sukhera ‘expressed his satisfaction’ over the results of the National Action Plan early this month. At the Regional Police Officers meeting, Sukhera claimed that at least 33,772 combing operations were conducted across the province in which 994,118 persons were questioned.

“During the past 10 months, at least 6162 general hold-ups were held. And 24436 suspected criminals were arrested. Similarly, 122,800 vehicles without number plates, having unauthorised plates or cars with tinted-glasses were impounded by police.”

According to the statement issued from the central police office, “the CTD arrested 40 hardcore activists. On violation of Tenancy Act, at least 7328 cases were registered, 11036 persons were arrested and 1754 were convicted.”

On the other hand, the figures are more confusing since the lists are prepared by the field police officers to show their own performance. People complain police brutalities, extortion, and illegal detention in the name national action plan .

A police officer while requesting anonymity said the station house officers were minting money by harassing citizens in the name of NAP. “To show their performance in official record, the police often arrest innocent Pushtuns,” officer said. “In fact, Pushtun workers and traders are facing police brutalities since the NAP was launched. They are roughed up, detained for several days, and ultimately released after they bribe cops”.

The search operations in fact are doing more harm to the society than any good. Since January, the Punjab police, the largest law enforcement agency, have failed to arrest any “important militant commander or terrorist” in the province where more than one million people are “grilled” in the name of security sweep.

The provincial government must take notice of the police exercise since the cops are making mockery of the national action plan , security experts say.

A police spokesperson yesterday night said that Race Course police station SHO Rizwan Lateef was suspended from service over misconduct while an inquiry was underway.

“Civil Lines SP Omar Bilal has been directed to send back the inquiry report within 24 hours,” the spokesperson said. Lahore DIG Haider Ashraf earlier ordered the inquiry to probe into the happening.