Police Reforms in Pakistan: An Evaluation

Police, order and crime
By Azam Khalil: The News, October 28 2006

"We enact many laws that manufacture criminals, and then few that punish them."
Tucker

When the "Chief Executive's" order No.: 22 of 2002 was promulgated, it touted that the age old police system created by the British occupying forces in the subcontinent was never a just system nor a suitable proposition for a "free" country like Pakistan.

The Police Order 2002, as it was called, among other things laid out that the police, "has an obligation and duty to function according to the constitution, law and democratic aspirations of the people." "Such functioning of the police requires it to be professional, service oriented, and accountable to the people." "It is expedient to redefine the police role, its duties and responsibilities." "It is necessary to reconstruct the police for efficient prevention and detection of crime, and maintenance of public order."

These were lofty ideals and therefore required skill and political will for implementation. Unfortunately the political leadership of this country is not prepared to create an atmosphere of good governance that can strengthen and improve the image of institutions.

Pakistan is called a "police state" not that people in uniform are to be blamed for the disgusting state of affairs but because the politicians have misused the institution ruthlessly converting the department into an instrument of political power. Therefore, no one, was surprised when instead of improvement, the police took another plunge and is now considered to be one of the lowest of lows in Pakistan.

The spirit of the Police Order 2002 died long ago when serious violations were tolerated in the rotation of the posting policy and the death blow came when instead of following the time tested policy of seniority and merit, a new formula called, "The best of the best," was introduced to put a few "unscrupulous" but blue eyed officials in the fast track to give them "out of turn promotions."

Moving on, our short-sighted political leadership put in place a "hotch potch" posting method that has forced the entire top echelon of the police cadre to become and behave as personal servants for politicians instead of behaving as employees of the state. Now if we look at the state of affairs in different provinces, things are more or less the same and not conducive for foreign or domestic investment as trumpeted by the prime minister every other day.

Let us begin in NWFP; the police is caught in between the policies of the federal and provincial governments whose priorities for law and order are at great variance, even at contradiction with each other. The result is that powerful, mafia type gangs have emerged who can easily purchase police and political support. The smugglers operate freely selling goods such as, electronic items, arms and ammunition, drugs and contraband cigarettes.

The police lack the muscle and will to go after these barons and the Afghan/India supported insurgency has sent things beyond the control of Pasha's men. In Balochistan, the police seem to have become irrelevant due to two serious shortcomings. One is basic lack of training and the other is the reluctance of police officials to serve in the troubled and "hot" province.

Since the government allowed some officers to flout their orders of postings in Balochistan things have degenerated to a point where no one obeys the orders of their posting to Balochistan and those already there are reluctant workers marking time to move out. Therefore, when the government talks about its writ in this province it should also be put in place a uniform policy and then ensure that there was no one however well connected who could violate the laid down policy about postings.

Coming to Sindh, the police is working in the worst conditions that can be described; this is in spite of a thorough professional at the helm of the department. Dichotomy reins supreme in Sindh and that can never allow the spiral in street crime to come down. There is no policy of posting and people have forgotten the term 'tenure' in the province.

The prime minister had a meeting on October 14 and was, so to say, grieved at the state of affairs, particularly in Karachi. Mirza Jahangir scored a moral victory when the prime minister in the presence of the governor and chief minister ordered that all SHOs and SPs must be posted on merit. So far so good, how long the merit will sustain is another question. He also allowed recruitment of another 5000 cops in an effort to "recover" the city from the criminal gangs who at times have the support of powerful politicians. While good persons if posted at vital positions are bound to make a difference, it was the overall policy that mattered the most. And seen in totality of the scene, it was adhocism that ruled the day, the policy that will achieve the objectives of the Police order 2002 seemed to be still far away.

Finally let us see the situation in the most populous province of the country, Punjab. Here the situation is most chaotic, especially in the rural areas where 9 out of 10 people can never depend on police support for protection of their life and property. The province has a well-meaning Inspector General of Police but who seems to be failing to enforce merit and fair play. Again the serious handicap of the police department is the posting policy whereby the most corrupt and therefore inefficient officers are given choice postings. Another serious hurdle is the largesse being distributed among political cronies in the form of reemployment and extensions.

So many directions were received by the police that simply a new section had to be created tasking half a dozen officials to monitor the progress on the directions received by the department from the political bosses in Punjab. In urban areas politicians are calling the shots and mercilessly implicating their political opponents in false cases. This is not possible without the support of the local police.

The superior judiciary that was already overwhelmed with the burden of the sheer number of cases has intervened in some cases in an effort to put things back on track, they may even have travelled the extra mile that strictly speaking is not their job, but the police has refused to improve, the disappearance of one Bashir from Sialkot and the harassment of the complainant's wife by the police in spite of court interventions tells the present state of affairs.

In Lahore the capital city or the show window of the government has a mercurial city police chief in Kh Khalid Farooq who has been able to stop the rising crime and improve certain areas where dacoity detection has risen to 53 per cent, and murder challans have hit a high of 58 per cent as compared to 50 per cent last year. 91 per cent of kidnapping for ransom cases were resolved, 45 per cent motorcycles were recovered and 32 per cent cars were retrieved.

All this was achieved with only 60 per cent of the 17,000 officers sanctioned for Lahore's police force. 40 per cent of officials are doing protocol and VVIP security, and 350 to 400 are performing duty in the chief minister's house, while more than 100 are engaged in CPO. The rest are engaged in odd jobs.

The policy of bifurcating the police into operations and investigation wings has failed to bear fruit because in Punjab the rate of challans sent by the crime branch used to be a healthy 38 per cent, now with an insipid chief of the investigation wing it has slipped to 17-18 per cent. This official was tried in the training wing and then the I G prison but failed, instead of being sent home, he pulled strong political strings and landed in the sensitive job of chief of the investigation branch. This area was critical for failure or success of the department.

The experiment of posting SPOs in every police station has failed and soon the old system will be revived. The Punjab police also suffers due to excessive new experiments, like the creation of vigilance cells, monitoring cells and high-powered committees that overlap the work of all additional IGs and DIGs. This results in bickering that sometimes leaves a bad taste. This policy is responsible for poor management.

Ziaul Hasan has tried to create a consensus for evolving a policy and giving direction to the department. However, instead of helping in creating harmony these experiments result in intensified turf wars.

For example the following two cases will tell the story of the Punjab police, a havaldar who masquerades as chief of staff with a senior official had his room sealed by former IG Sadat Ullah Khan. Now his 28 punishments have been set aside with one stroke of the pen. Secondly a policy decision was issued announcing that all SHOs in Lahore are required to be inspectors so all sub inspectors working as SHOs were transferred. The next day one blue-eyed sub-inspector was promptly put back as SHO. So where is the police order? Leave aside it was enacted for the benefit of the people.

The writer is a Lahore based columnist. Email: zarnatta@hotmail.com

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