Balochistan security

Depoliticisation of the police force constitutes one vital aspect of ensuring security in Balochistan.

Editorial July 16, 2013
A Pakistani plainclothes police officer looks at a bullet-riddled vehicle after an attack by gunmen in Quetta on July 15, 2013. PHOTO: AFP

The central government has taken on the issue of lawlessness in Balochistan by announcing a decision to revamp the entire law-enforcement structure in the province, notably the police force, and also double the strength of personnel. This announcement, made by the prime minister through the interior ministry, follows discussions with the provincial government on law and order in the province. There is agreement between them that this is a matter of immense urgency, which needs to be tackled urgently. Certainly, most would agree with this, given the daily reports of murder and mayhem that come in from our country’s most restive province.

There are currently 35,000 personnel linked to the police and the significantly more powerful Frontier Constabulary (FC) patrolling Balochistan. These numbers cover only a tiny portion of that vast territory. The Balochistan home department has already said that about 15,000 to 20,000 more persons are immediately needed for both the police and other agencies. There can be no harm in expanding the numbers. It is something that is needed, especially given the sheer size of Balochistan.

But it is not numbers alone that will make the difference. Effective law enforcement is also a necessity. Depoliticisation of the police force constitutes one vital aspect of this. Without this, there can be no real change. The matter needs to be considered if there is to be any genuine hope of an improvement in Balochistan. Other aspects are potentially even more complicated. The facts as they stand right now are that real power is wielded by the FC; perceptions among many in Balochistan about this agency are negative. This does not help the law and order situation, given that the need for cooperation between law enforcers and ordinary citizens is imperative if any kind of genuine peace is to be restored. Increasing the numbers of law enforcers on the ground could be a first step towards this, but it should certainly not be the only measure put in place to tackle a situation that is destabilising our whole country, with no clear evidence of improvement currently in sight. However, we must hope this improvement will come soon with the central government having taken the initiative to revamp the law-enforcement structure in the province.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 17th, 2013.

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