THE Director General of Rab has claimed that the 622 killings in crossfire in the last six years, that the special law enforcement agency is responsible for, were well within the framework of law. The claim is as assailable as it is clearly untenable.
Ever since the formation of the special force, raised to combat the slide in law and order, we have appreciated its successes like arresting the extremists and arms recovery on a huge scale in different places. But we are certainly horrified by the crossfire deaths. Such extra judicial killings cannot be condoned under any circumstances in a civilized setting. The law enforcers' foremost duty is to uphold rule of law and protect lives of citizens, and not to snuff them out even in situations where they are suspected to be on the wrong side of law and more so when they were in custody.
It has also been claimed that all the crossfire killings were duly investigated. Here we have some legitimate questions to ask. The first question is who was the investigator? Were the investigation reports made public? Are they not being prosecutor, jury, executioner and judge at the same time. That amounts to gross undermining of the justice system. Secondly, it is not at all clear that only the hardened criminals were killed. The entire crossfire scheme becomes legally and morally untenable if it has claimed even one innocent victim. Obviously, even the most notorious criminals have the right to seek legal aid and is entitled to due process of law. That is where the real test of rule of law lies.
The modus operandi of Rab, particularly when it comes to crossfire, can not be above question simply because it claims immunity before law. The same story of a criminal being taken to a place to identify and arrest some other criminals and the hapless fellow getting killed in crossfire is being told again and again. It is not known why the crossfire victim is never given any protective gear on such hazardous missions.
That Rab struck fear in the minds of hardened criminals is true and people did heave a sigh of relief when extremists and known outlaws were arrested. But that does not give them the licence to kill those in custody. Rab authorities have to make all investigation reports on crossfire killings public or risk losing the sympathy of the people. People do want the dangerous criminals to be brought to justice but not in a way that is grossly inadmissible in law. For, respect for rule of law is the stuff of which a civilised society is made.