The facility to register complaints online is a welcome initiative by the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa police since it saves citizens the hassle of going to a police station. By allowing citizens to lodge their complaints directly, this system circumvents police officers who are often reluctant to register FIRs, particularly in kidnapping and ransom cases. Potentially, this could be an effective tool in combating the endemic corruption and pressure at the thana level. The online FIR is also particularly helpful to women who might have problems stepping outside the house and often face discrimination at the hands of police officers when trying to register complaints of abuse. Of course, this is not to say that the system is a substitute for a trained and sensitised police force. After all, the online complaints are screened by police officers before they are finally registered as FIRs and competent policemen would form the lynchpin of the system.
Currently, the online system has its share of hitches: out of 1,277 online FIRs registered in the first two days after the service was publicised, only about 70 were found to be authentic. The rest were found to have been filed out of personal enmity. Though the number of fake FIRs is expected to tail off once people get used to the new facility, perhaps a system of penalising those who file frivolous and false complaints online would help make the system stronger. This is a great initiative by the K-P government and can eventually help in increasing the efficiency of the police force and provide relief to the people. At the same time, it must be noted that the low literacy rate limits the usefulness of the system, which assumes that the complainant is capable of filing a complaint form in English and is proficient in using the internet. It is bound to have greater utility in big urban centres where both the crime rate and literacy are higher, so it would be a good idea for other provinces to replicate this system.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 15th, 2013.