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Editorial

October 12, 2018

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Moral policing

Is the task of the police force to undertake moral policing? It is clear that the answer is no. But there have continued to be multiple reports of police officials harassing young couples with requests for marriage certificates. The purpose of the harassment is to fleece them and take bribes. This has gone on for years in Pakistan. Now, in a surprising and very welcome step, Karachi Police Chief Dr Amir Sheikh has ordered his police officers to stop harassing young couples. The orders will be welcome relief for young people, who find themselves harassed by police officials often in public spaces. Instead of performing their duties to protect the public, police officers further harass the public, contributing to the feeling of being unsafe in public spaces and damaging the image of the police. The Karachi police chief sent his orders to the DIGs of all three zones in Karachi with the promise of immediate action against all police officers who engage in the practice.

There are no laws to stop young people from opposite genders from being together in public spaces. Police officials often use the threat of ‘informing their families’ to ask for bribes from young people, whether they are couples or part of a group of friends. The issue is not limited to Karachi. One is reminded of the horrible raids in public parks by a particular TV host a few years ago as part of her TV show. Public outrage led to the said TV host being but the issue was not tackled. Matters have been worse since. In August this year, CDA officials blackmailed and raped a girl for accompanying a boy to a public park. This is not the first time that such tactics have been used by state officials to sexually abuse people. A popular tactic by police officials is to ask for a phone number for the ‘parents’ Of such young people. There are numerous reports of police officials in motorcycles roaming around and looking for young couples in public spaces. This moral harassment by police officials across Pakistan has to be stopped. Police are tasked with stopping criminal activity, not policing public behaviour. Conservative social mores are often used as an excuse for harassing young people, but this has nothing to do with policing. This is a serious issue that needs redressal and it is hoped that the Karachi police chief’s steps are emulated in other cities.

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