Directionless Policing in Pakistan
Tariq Khosa, The News, July 15, 2011
With one thoughtless and reckless stroke of pen the PPP-led Sindh Government has repealed the police law of 2002, thus reviving Police Act of 1861. This is a huge leap backwards that revives military model of Irish constabulary as well as bureaucratic control of the police.
The so-called democratic government has walked into the trap laid by devious baboos and their political patrons who do not want a politically neutral, democratically controlled and highly accountable police service. By a single notification, the police in Sindh have been turned into an oppressive force rather than a public service. It is time to rise against this retrogressive step.
This executive order may have been given under political compulsions but its implications have not been carefully examined. Revival of 1861 law is not only unconstitutional but also violates the principle of separation of the judiciary from the executive. It is aimed at undermining the independence of judiciary, removing the democratic control of elected Nazims over the local government, ensuring bureaucratic control over the police through executive magistracy, and diluting the command of the police chief over his own force. In other words, the executive by one stone has tried to kill three birds, i.e. independent judiciary, elected mayors, and professional police commanders.
This patently illegal and unconstitutional directive is all set to be challenged before the High Court and may even go before the Supreme Court. Questions are being raised whether Police Order 2002, a federal law, can altogether be repealed by the provincial government instead of introducing some amendments that do not vitiate the basic structure of the law. The question whether police law could be promulgated by the federal government came up before the Lahore High Court in 2002. Mr Justice Tassaduq Jilani of Lahore High Court ruled that policing is an extension of the Criminal Procedure Code and therefore the federation can promulgate police law. This question therefore was settled by the High Court and has not been undone by the Supreme Court.
The question of separation of powers between the executive and the judiciary is bound to be raised in this unilateral action of the Sindh Government. The institution of the executive magistracy stands abolished in accordance with the constitutional requirement in all the four provinces.
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For background, see:
Reforming Police and Law Enforcment Infrastructure in Pakistan by Hassan Abbas - USIP
Reforming Pakistan Police: An Overview by Shoaib Suddle
Strengthening Police Reform in South Asia - Asian Development Bank