We live in a police state. Cases of Naqeeb Ullah Mehsud, Professor Arman Luni, Sahiwal killings and Salahudin are exceptional only in terms of the publicity they manage to generate. Otherwise, fear, humiliation, torture and corruption remain the norm in citizen-police encounters, signaling the grip of coercive apparatuses on everyday life in Pakistan.
Torture in particular is a unique mode of policing. Its purpose is not to serve justice adequate to a particular crime. Instead, it aims to annul citizenship out of the victims body through the use of excessive pain. Tortured bodies are the stamps carrying dirty secrets of the state to remind the public that beyond all rhetoric of rights and responsibilities, there remains the sovereign’s primordial right to kill. It melts away any remnants of dignity in people’s live and elevates the anxiety of death as the supreme emotion in society.
What is worse is that the state now has mechanism to deal with the periodic rage that spills out. In moments of public outpouring of anger, even ministers will join the chorus to condemn a particular act. The aim is always to ensure that the rage is contained within the parameters defined by the state. But the moment a campaign develops to challenge the underlying logic of systemic violence, the state will allege treason and use the same police to fix those who cross the line.
PTI governments, much like previous governments, appears helpless in front of the system that reduces citizens to inexistence. This is the third major incident of police violence in Punjab since CM Buzdar took over. Few months ago, we worked with families of Sahiwal incident and observed how bribes and threats were all that the government could offer to protect ‘state institutions’ from any serious accountability.
Walter Benjamin taught us that despite all obfuscations by government officials, rage continues to store in the collective unconscious of the masses. There are then moments in which this accumulated rage bursts into the open to impose divine justice. The suffering of victims has been repressed but has not disappeared. Their limits are being tested. Despite the long night of tyranny, we may not be too far from a sudden eruption of anger that will paralyze the violent apparatuses. When enough of us will muster the courage to declare that the Emperor is naked, we will begin to dismantle the police state that has turned our entire society into a death zone. Just heard of another case of police violence. This time in Peshawar. An alleged thief died in police custody. There was foam coming out of his mouth. In fact, virulent victims of people in Pakistan has become routine of times. Government is sleeping. Every passing day, comes with heartwarming dilemma. Government should leave deep slumber and provide justice to people who are dying by powerful.
Naveed Abbas Maitlo