Islamabad — Peshawar Police failed to arrest or identify suspects for three in every five murder cases reported in the district during 2016 and 2017, according to official records.
The police registered 880 First Information Reports (FIRs) for murder from January 2016 to December 2017 at 30 police stations in Peshawar. According to police records, the accused either absconded or police were unable to trace the killers in at least 60% of these homicide investigations.
The Central Police Office Peshawar shared data for murder FIRs with Media for Transparency in response to a RIght to Information (RTI) request.
The records show that Peshawar’s murder rate was 11 murders per 100,000 population in 2016, and only slightly improved to 10 murders per 100,000 residents in 2017. In comparison, reported statistics show Rawalpindi district had a murder rate of 4 murders per 100,000 population in 2016 and 2017.
Under-reported crimes might skew district comparisons. But, in absolute terms, the Peshawar district saw an alarming eight murders reported to police every week on average during the two years reflected in the data.
Suspects At Large
The Peshawar Police data identified the status of each murder investigation.
Around 45% of the total reported murders in two years carried the status of “512 CrPC.” This code relates to a section in the Code of Criminal Procedures that allows a court to examine witnesses and record their sworn testimonies in case police have proved that the accused has absconded and cannot be arrested immediately. The clause also applies to record of evidence if offenders are unknown.
“(In these cases), the police are not actively looking for the criminals but are on orders to arrest them if they ever find them, come across them, or get news of their whereabouts,” Farah Nisar, a criminal lawyer, told Media for Transparency.
The witness accounts presented in court can be used later as evidence if the accused are arrested or offenders identified and caught, according to the law.
In addition to the 397 murder cases with the 512 CrPc status, 128 homicides in Peshawar district were untraced between January 2016 and December 2017. Another 111 cases from the same time period are still under investigation.
Police were only able to submit a complete charge sheet against murder suspects in 229 cases — or around one in four murders.
Police failed to determine the motive for every third murder in 2016, according to the data. The reasons for around one in four murders remained unknown in 2017.
For the homicides where police investigations led to identification of the reason behind the killing, the 880 murder FIRs had over 60 unique motives. These ranged from the typical (“land dispute”, “target killing”) to the bizarre (“pigeon dispute”, “disobedient son”).
The most common causes of murder identified by police were prior enmity and quarrel. A total of 130 murder cases were linked with prior enmity and 129 with quarrel, during the two-year period.
Police records stated domestic problems led to 87 murders across the district during 2016 and 2017. Another 38 murders were identified as honour killings.
A variety of disputes, including arguments over land, wealth, trees, and cricket, were listed as the causes for 166 homicides, according to the data.
“Property dispute is one of the major reasons why we see family enmity and quarrels that lead to murder,” Tilawat Shah, an investigating officer at Peshawar’s Inqilab police station told Media for Transparency.
Inqilab police station had 42 murder cases reported in 2017 — the highest number of murders by jurisdiction across the district in that year. The station covers a population of around 30,000 to 40,000 residents, Mr Shah said.
He said that most of the murder cases he has investigated were from the rural areas within Inqilab’s jurisdiction.
“The area inhabitants are illiterate,” he said. “They kill over property regularly and then run away.”
Mr Shah said pistols are the most common murder weapon but he did not say if fingerprints off the weapons are used to identify the killers.
Inqilab police station was not worst off in terms of homicides.
The most number of murders were reported at Badaber police station for the years 2016 and 2017 altogether. There were 103 murder FIRs registered at this police station, which is located in a village to the south of Peshawar city.