Ensuring people-friendly policing

Published: August 6, 2013

The writer is a former inspector general of the Punjab Police and author of Pakistan: The Political Economy of Lawlessness (Oxford University Press, 2002)

Off and on we keep hearing politicians, journalists and the public at large complaining against police behaviour, callousness, corruption and insensitivity to public woes. There is also talk of changing the police culture.

The recent examples of rebuke from the establishment and attempts by the rich and influential to claim immunity from the law are not only demoralising for members of a disciplined force, but also indicate the need for a change in the political culture of marginalising the police from the community. The insensitive remarks about the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa police by the K-P chief minister brushed aside the supreme sacrifices of the police and their constant struggle against ruthless militants.

The Quetta incident — relating to an argument followed by a scuffle between police personnel and private guards of senior minister Sardar Sanaullah Zehri, in which the latter tried to force their entry into the premises of the assembly, prompting the Balochistan chief minister to announce the suspension of the Quetta superintendent of police — had resulted in a protest by police personnel outside the assembly building. The resolution of the problem by the Balochistan High Court was through suo motu action resulting in a criminal case against the minister’s guards. Following the incident, the advocate general said that the fact that no suspension orders were issued reflects that no change in police culture is possible without a corresponding change in political culture.

The way the Police Order of 2002 was replaced by the colonial Police Act of 1861 in Sindh and Balochistan for ‘political expediency’ shows unwillingness on the part of the provincial governments to fulfil any protective role or make any attempt to retain the maximum degree of public legitimacy.

After the Eighteenth Amendment, policing has become an exclusive provincial subject. However, this does not mean that there is no need for coordination in legislation relating to policing at the national level. Whatever police law the provinces envisage for themselves, the basic structure and contours should be decided at the national level to ensure harmony, effectiveness and efficiency of the police force in the wake of multifarious challenges of organised crime.

While the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government is in the process of formulating rules under the Police Order 2002, the Punjab government is considering a draft called the Punjab Police Act 2013. Clauses of the proposed act relate to reinvigoration of the discipline and greater interaction with the community.

Though these steps are in the right direction, it is appropriate to point out that an open, professional, accountable and dynamic system of policing, commensurate with the requirements of a democratic and progressive society, is not possible without incorporating provisions relating to ‘constabulary independence’, which means complete operational autonomy of the police exclusive of bureaucratic or political intervention. This should be in juxtaposition with the legal provisions for community policing, policing by objectives, an alternative dispute-resolution mechanism, a well thought-out media policy and holding of professional police conferences.

The police act should also contain provisions for ensuring that paramilitary civilian agencies, like Rangers, and the army are not deployed for police functions and are not entrusted with police powers. To implement an effective policing system in Pakistan, the challenges emerging from institutional/organisational resistance from the police and the legacy of an unpopular image will need to be addressed. There must also be a change in the management style from authoritarian/autocratic/impersonal to a flexible/friendly one based on team work. The issues of communities fractured on racial, tribal and sectarian bases, ignorance and lack of education, lack of motivation and resources in the police force, substandard recruitment on political grounds, threats from other government departments and criminal elements in the police ranks will also need to be addressed.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 7th, 2013.

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Reader Comments (4)

  • Parvez
    Aug 7, 2013 - 12:25AM

    Sir, the credibility of the police in general, in the eyes of the people, is rated below zero.
    To say that this needs, or that needs to be done in flowery prose is not going to help. The problem is and always has been the politicisation of the police and sadly the polices acceptance of this. Our political leaders make laws to enure that their shenanigans are protected and remain outside the law ………… do you expect them to do the right thing ??

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  • Walayat Malik
    Aug 7, 2013 - 3:54AM

    The writer has missed the most important point about our colonial police system. It is that police is based on military pattern. It consists of men and officers. It should only have officers as in USA, Canada and UK. There should be no direct hiring of ASIs and PSPs. Hiring should be only at the bottom level and a constable should be able to rise to become chief of police as in Western countries.

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  • Ali Tanoli
    Aug 7, 2013 - 8:22PM

    police recruitments on political based and on ethanic lines are the biggest factor in absence of rules of law and then less pay causing corruption in the dept.

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  • Manoj Joshi India
    Aug 11, 2013 - 6:03PM

    Police Reforms is required in South Asia as the nations of this part of the continent that have been former British colonies are still been practicing or has been in execution the Police Act as enacted by the imperial rulers of Britain. The objective of having created the police as an institution had been to check any kind of revolts or tirade against the British Crown. In India and Pakistan the Indian Police Act of 1861 was implemented after the revolt of 1857 with the aim to prevent such revolts in the future. No doubt the drafting of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the Criminal Procedural Code (CrPc) by Lord Macaulay was indeed a master piece with regard to public and police administration however with the passing of time the nature off crime and offences have undergone changes but despite various commissions that have been set up in Pakistan and India the real implementation of Police Reforms still remains from becoming a reality. Police Commissioner system in the major cities is a must for a better and more effective policing which still needs to be implemented on a uniform basis. A greater degree of autonomy to the police as a department is needed wherein law and order is a vital function of the police which during the present is many a times handed over to the army or para-military forces that are the Rangers in Pakistan and Border Security Force and Central Reserve Police Force in India. Police as an institution has been a victim of regular political interference and has to function under various administrative constraints which is a common feature in Pakistan, India and the other nations of South Asia. This political interference needs to be reduced and a more people friendly police is required. But, this is a part to be played by the people of the nation be it Pakistan or India or any other nation to ensure that the police enjoys a greater degree of autonomy with off course the responsibility that is to be executed in an unbiased manner. In addition the police has so far been a state or provincial subject of the nations in South Asia which now with the changing nature of crime and offences and the matrix of crime dynamics should be shifted either to the concurrent or central/federal list of subjects. The concurrent list should be ideal wherein the concerned state or province as the case may be too shall have the right to enact laws with off course the centre enjoying the upper hand. There have been counter arguments in this regard as there are believers and thinkers who aim for a greater degree of decentralisation. The concept of decentralisation or federation most viable in diverse heterogeneous society nevertheless certain institutions related to defence and security of the nation should remain centralised or enjoy a proportional state concurrence.

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