Punjab Prime Minister spokesman Dr. Shahbaz Gill announced on Wednesday that Prime Minister Usman Buzdar had ordered that each deputy police superintendent (DSP) and district police officer (DPO) in the province should file a statement sworn that there was no torture cell within the jurisdiction of their respective station.
The order comes after several cases of suspects who died in the custody of the Punjab police recently came to light due to alleged torture.
At a press conference, Gill shared some of the immediate steps that the provincial government is taking to address the situation. He said that if a torture incident occurs after the filing of the affidavit, a first information report (FIR) will be recorded against the DPO and DSP instead of the police officers and sub-inspectors, as is generally done.
Earlier, the Punjab police general inspector (IGP), retired captain Arif Nawaz Khan, had also stated that FIRs would be registered against the DPO, DSP and the station officer (SHO) involved in the case of torture or death in custody while the SHO participated in such incidents would be blacklisted for publication at any police station.
Gill also said that Prime Minister Buzdar had expressed his desire to form an independent board, whose final form would soon be developed and applied in the police. In the case of an incident, media people, school teachers and people from different walks of life would be included in the meeting, he revealed.
The spokesman said the guard dog they were forming would independently investigate an incident and see what happened.
Gill commented during the press conference that fixing the police was a "very difficult job."
While he noted that the delivery to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa had taken two and a half years and would also take time in Punjab, he said the government was not going to fulfill his promise again.
Gill also described the steps that the Punjab government is taking to change police interaction with the public.
He said an officer will be appointed inside the police stations whose only job would be to work in personal relationships.
A complaint box will also be installed near the stations that RPO and DPO would open once a month. The stations will be classified based on people's complaints, Gill added.
At the beginning of his press conference, the spokesman said that through Buzdar, Prime Minister Imran Khan had sent a message to the institutions related to the Punjab service, at the top of which is the police.
In the message, the police were praised for their duty during Muharram.
"The prime minister had a very clear message that the police are at the service of the people," Gill said, adding that the purpose of the police was not to torture people or direct torture cells.
At least three cases had arisen in the last days of deaths caused by alleged police torture, and the videos had gone viral on the social networks of some suspects in an anguished state while in police custody. On September 1, Salahuddin Ayubi, a man with a mental disability, had died in police custody in Rahim Yar Khan. On the same day, a middle-aged man had died in Lahore after allegedly tortured by the Gujjarpura police in an illegal torture cell that was unearthed last month.
There were also reports that a gardener named Amir Masih had died after being illegally detained in an alleged police torture cell in Lahore.