Revamping the police by I M Mohsin
The News, March 31, 2008
The Feb 18 elections ushered in a rare chance for the return of democracy. As the hangers-on of the status quo got wiped out, the country and the biggest party suffered the terrible loss by way of the assassination of its leader. Security lapses of all kinds appear an important cause for this gruesome tragedy. One hopes that justice shall prevail finally against those guilty of such a massive blow to our national interest.
As Nawaz Sharif was hustled out of power by his COAS, the new regime got off to a comfortable start at home. 9/11 proved a stitch-in-time for the new adventurer and suddenly the US started patronising him. Power supplemented by pelf made him plan for a long haul which was facilitated by the rise of too many carpetbaggers. Finding the dice heavily loaded in his favour, he unfurled his civilian-facade agenda in 2002. Once he had put up a civil-military Trojan horse projecting a sham-democracy, he started ruling like a benign-dictator as there was no tangible threat to his powerbase.
Hoping to reform the police, Musharraf issued the Police Order 2002. The ordinance proposed to achieve two objectives. First, it aimed at allowing functional autonomy to the police. The second was to ensure its de-politicization. It was hoped that such changes would make justice easily available to the people. Likewise it was visualised that the streamlining of the administration of justice would lead to an ambitious socio-economic turnaround. The police order proposed the following framework; 1) separation of law and order from investigation; 2) setting up public safety commissions to safeguard police neutrality and autonomy; 3) creating a system of complaints against police high-handedness and/or misuse of powers and 4) developing an independent prosecution cadre. While a lack of resources frustrated objectives one and three, a singular lack of political will caused the failure of aims two and four.
The concept of public safety commissions was borrowed from Japan which has very high standards of education/ political consciousness. In their system, the members of such commissions are nominated by the governmts on the basis of their credentials etc and nobody applies for the same. True to our ethos, we invited applications from retired police officers/ civil servants. As police get, generally, misused by those in power, members of the regime saw their stake in having a nominee who would listen to them. Though some officers were personally honest yet their sponsorship sealed the fate of the institution. It remains a white elephant maintained by the public exchequer like many other entities. No wonder, it failed utterly to mitigate political influence and highhandedness while it did precious little to promote functional autonomy/ efficiency.
Now that the die is cast, the political parties, generally, but more so those forming the coalitions, will have to take the bull by the horns. The Police Order 2002 was an improvement theoretically. It got sabotaged, generally, by the conflicting interests of puerile people purveying political power. The funny control of elected nazims reflected the greed for power on all sides. In free countries such elected local officials can’t be removed by any authority other than their electors or the concerned council consisting of local representatives. Can any German president/chancellor remove the mayor of Berlin or can any prime minister of the UK remove the mayor of London? That is impossible. Our ‘Islamic Republic’ has, so far, remained vulnerable to the whims, generally, of the COAS who can order three trucks of 10 Corp to occupy gevrental structures in Islamabad. Tragically, the feudal/ nouveau riche elements and even religious parties, generally, make a bee-line for supporting such coups supported by their biradaris, tribes etc. Now things appear to be changing, thanks to the youth.
Democracy breeds social change which would strengthen the civil society to meticulously monitor those vested with power and hold them accountable. The police can improve, to some extent, if their service conditions perk up. However, real change will come if judiciary, with integrity, can play its defined role.
A vision for our police, though rather farfetched, can be a ruling dating back to 1968 given in Britain which, in deciding in Regina vs commissioner of police of Blackburn, said that “every constable in the land should be and is independent of the executive” and that “no minister can tell him he must or must not keep observation on this place or that, or that he must or must not, prosecute this person or that , nor can any police authority tell him to do so”.
The writer is a former secretary interior/ IGP. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org