A visitor to Lahore is arrested for 'awaragardi'.

ByShehryar Makhdoom | Published date:

Muhammad Waqas, 25, arrived in Lahore after a two-hour drive in a leased car from a village near Gujranwala, with his four buddies, to pay tribute to Lahore's patron saint at Data Darbar.

However, it took him nearly an entire day to come back home after the Shahdara police arrested him for engaging in "awaragardi" within its jurisdiction.

On the night of the 14th of June, Waqas stood close to the Shahdara bus station and was about to call his mobile telephone when a cop car came to him.

The driver of the hired car went to a gasoline pump to fill up the fuel tank, while the pals of Waqas had left an auto-rickshaw for Data Darbar.

ASI Ashfaq Khan confronted Waqas, a barber by trade, and demanded to know why he was in the area. The terrified man presented the cop with his CNIC and stated that he was in town to visit a cousin.

Waqas was bundled into the police van and driven to the police station, where 40 other men had already been arrested on similar charges.

According to Waqas, police investigators released several arrested men after receiving phone calls from 'powerful' individuals or accepting bribes from them.

The police filed a joint report against twelve individuals, including Waqas, under section 55 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) 1898.

Subsection A of the provision states that any person found taking precautions to conceal his presence within the confines of a police station may be arrested if there is reason to believe he is doing so to commit a cognizable offense.

Section B also enables a police officer to arrest anyone who does not have or cannot give an acceptable account of themselves within the bounds of a station.

The morning afterward, police submitted Waqas and others to a district court judiciary to warn of personal security.

A few days ago, the Lahore police drew social media criticism as the Model Town police detained the artist Abuzar Madhu for "awaragardi." At the same time, he awaited a self-rickshaw at Kalma Chowk in the wee hours.

He was also arrested and taken to a police station, where he was scheduled to appear before a judicial magistrate the following morning. However, he was released on personal recognizance by the magistrate.

Lahore's senior police officers remained unavailable for comments on the abuse of colonial-era law against citizens.

According to Advocate Usama Khawar Ghumman, section 55 of the CrPC 1898 is a colonial legacy. He claimed that it gave police the authority to detain vagrants, the homeless, and the unemployed who had no apparent means of subsistence.

He stated that the aforementioned legal clause was enacted for colonialists to exert control over indigenous people. He claimed and contended that such a law provision had no place in a modern constitutional state and anti-poor.

"It violates the Pakistani Constitution's guarantee of freedom of movement. Every individual has the right to enter or leave Pakistan freely," he added.

He stated that either the legislature should repeal or the constitutional courts should strike down this section because it was prone to abuse and vested police with vast powers.