In a scathing commentary on Pakistan’s abysmal record of human rights, a global rights body has said that police in the country engage in human rights violations such as "arbitrary arrest, torture, extra-judicial killings and sexual violence," with religious minorities particularly vulnerable to the "disgruntled and corrupt" officers of the force.
The damning report details the over 2000 alleged false "encounters" committed by police in 2015, and demanded an immediate overhaul of the country's police system that "enables and even encourages serious human rights violations".
The findings, contained in the 102-page report by the Human Rights Watch, is based on interviews with senior police officials, and victims and witnesses of police abuse in Balochistan, Sindh and Punjab provinces.
It found that police routinely uses torture against people in custody, particularly during criminal investigations.
"Those from marginalised groups, refugees, the poor, religious minorities, and the landless - are at particular risk of violent police abuse."
"Methods of custodial torture include beatings with batons, stretching and crushing legs with metal rods, sexual violence, prolonged sleep deprivation, and mental torture, including forcing detainees to witness the torture of others," the report added.
Expressing concern over the situation, Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said, "Pakistan faces grave security challenges that can be best handled by a rights respecting, accountable police force."
"Instead, law enforcement has been left to a police force filled with disgruntled, corrupt, and tired officers who commit abuses with impunity, making Pakistanis less safe, not more," he added.
Senior police officials told Human Rights Watch that physical force is often used because the police are not trained in methods of professional investigation and forensic analysis, it said.
"Police officers openly admitted to the practice of faked encounter killings," the report said, adding that such actions were often carried out under pressure from powerful politicians and local elites.
Police in Pakistan are under-resourced and over-stretched with under qualified and poorly trained officials often in important positions.
The country's security forces are not only at the forefront of war on terrorism, but have also to contend with rising militancy, drug-trafficking, gang-wars, honour killings, kidnappings and targeted killings.
"Abysmal work conditions contribute to the climate where violations are tolerated or encouraged," Adams said, adding that the rule of law won't become a reality in Pakistan unless the law enforcement forces are also held to it.