The Police Act 1861 needs major reforms in order to become as democratic as the Police Ordinance 2002, announced civil society representatives at the press club on Wednesday.
Earlier, the organisations had gathered at a hotel to discuss the recent change from the Police Order 2002 to the Police Act 1861. They wanted to issue a joint proposal on potential reforms in the police department.
The meeting was called by an Islamabad-based organisation, Rozan, at the Regent Plaza Hotel. Afterwards, their proposal was presented by Mahnaz Rahman of the Aurat Foundation at a joint press conference.
The proposal said that the police be made accountable to the law, the democratic government and the people. It should not be a law unto itself. Protecting vulnerable people, such as women and children, must be made a priority by “adding professional services and transparency in policing”. The representatives demanded that the police be put in charge of their own operations and financing. They also wanted more opportunities for women to join the police force at higher levels.
Once the police body is given autonomy, a mechanism should be devised to oversee complaints and hold the police accountable for their actions. This will help win the trust of residents by countering the perception that the police have complete impunity. Elected and civil society representatives should be involved in this mechanism.
“Policing has never been a public policy agenda in Pakistan unlike education and health,” Rozan’s managing director Babar Bashir said at the meeting before the press conference. “Pakistan’s government adopted laws from the British because of the needs at the time of partition. However, with developments all over the world a new concept of democratic ‘people-friendly policing’ has emerged.”
Khatib Ahmad of Shehri-CBE explained this concept. He said that it includes protecting people’s rights, maintaining law and order and implementing the government’s authority.
The viability of the Police Act 1861 received conflicting reviews at the meeting. Ellahi Bakhsh Baloch of the Strengthening Participatory Organisation said that it was more practical than Police Order 2002. In his view, the 2002 order failed to deliver quality policing. The law and order situation has become a lot worse in the last 11 years, he added. In the end however, it was decided that the newly reinstated police act needed to be more democratic.
Shehri-CBE, Aurat Foundation, Centre for Peace and Development Initiative, Strengthening Participatory Organisation, Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child, War Against Rape, Shirkat Gah and Individualland participated in the discussion. Their representatives plan to meet with parliamentarians, politicians and people from the media starting today.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 21st, 2011.