Pakistani society is falling apart socially and morally. Perhaps one of the most corrupt institution in the country is of police which has been politicized and criminalized. Police is regularly used to threaten and silence political opponents. The prime example of this was 17th June 2014 Model Town massacre in Lahore, where 16 people were shot dead and another 100 received bullet wounds. The long march which followed this massacre also saw police being used to terrorize and massacre peaceful protesters.
The above stated acts of state terrorism were seen by the whole media however there are other crimes of police which pass under the radar. Crimes which looking at the state of Pakistani society, might not even be considered as crimes like deliberately harassing law abiding citizens and forcing them to pay bribes.
It is a common practice of police officers to set up picket points where they can stop drivers and force them to pay a certain amount to avoid the inconvenience. Sometimes people are stopped for valid reasons, like driving without proper papers. But even in these cases, the police officers instead of giving out a ticket , offer the people a choice to pay a small amount of bribe to escape the inconvenience of paying off the ticket.
Something similar to this happened to me this morning. I was going to attend a lecture when the police officers stopped me near my home. All of my papers were in place, I thought that they`d have nothing against me. Just as this thought crossed my mind, the police officer asked about the missing tax sticker. I told him that I had paid the tax but the tax department, for some reason did not issue the tax sticker, instead they gave me a tax receipt.
The officers mind however, was working in a different manner. Immediately he accused me of evading tax and told me that he was going to charge me. Although a bit nervous, I got flared up. I told him that I had paid my taxes and that I can have someone to bring the complete documentation here within minutes. As I took out my cell phone to call home, the officer threatened to drag me out of my car. Now this was totally uncalled for. I reminded him that he had no right or power to lay a finger on me. He then changed his tone and told me to settle the issue by making a little payment in good faith i-e a bribe.
Oh no sir, this is not going to be my cup of tea!!
Scared and nervous as I was, for some reason the very mention of bribe seemed to have awakened something inside me. I refused plainly. I had done nothing wrong and I wouldn`t be the one to go down silently. From Islamic point of view receiving and offering bribe are considered as sins which can single handedly land us in hell. The police alone is not to be blamed, people are equally guilty. Here no one even thinks about standing up for their rights they are content with choosing the easy path.
As I refused, the police officer called his partner who tried to coax me into paying him. By this time I had already called home for the tax receipt. I refused to buy my way out and so they took me to a third officer who threatened to write my name in a list of offenders. I ignored his threat (though my heart did skip a couple of beats). He asked me how much cash I had with me, I told him that it wasn`t his business to know how much cash I had. They tried to threaten me again and my only reply to them was to wait till my tax receipt arrived, I wasn`t in any hurry to leave. The police officers however were getting agitated with every second.
Finally after a minute or two, a police officer came, returned my documents and told me to leave. He said now go away…what a strange man! I wasn`t going to push my luck by arguing further. I got into the car and drove away.
I realized that people are just too afraid of standing for their rights. Afraid or perhaps their own hands are so dirty that they don`t have the moral high ground of taking a stand. You should never let others stream roll over you. I could have paid them to avoid the hassle of being surrounded by corrupt police officers glaring down my neck. But I remembered all the speeches made by Dr.Qadri and Imran Khan during the days of massive protest last year. I remembered the sacrifices of the martyrs of our revolution. This was a small act of rebellion in a society plagued with darkness of mind and soul. As long as those who differentiate between right and wrong can dare to take a stand, there will always be hope.
I didn`t post this to show how brave I am. No, that is not my intention. Anyway this isn`t bravery when you compare it to what the revolutionary activists showed last year. I want people who face similar situations to realize that they have all the power to resist. Wherever we can, whenever we can, we must make a stand against injustice, corruption and tyranny. You can`t ignore these small acts of injustice because if you do, then they`ll turn into a bigger and far more dangerous monster.