Revival of Public Safety Commissions ordered by CJ

Manzoor Ali Shah April 16, 2010

PESHAWAR: Recall the video clips of police brutality shown on private television channels? Such misuse of authority given to the law enforcers was sufficient to jolt the nation.

The people looked on in horror and, perhaps, realised the importance of having a safeguard against the guards. This incidentally, is exactly what a Public Safety Commission (PSC) does.

Public Safety and Police Complaints at provincial and district level were introduced back in 2002 in the Police Order 2002. Clauses 45 and 80 of the police order attach a lengthy list of functions to these bodies at district and province level.

Clause 45 deals with complaints against the police, while clause 80 provides guidelines to the government on how to handle the provincial police officers and capital city police officers to promote integrity, efficiency and effectiveness of police and to take steps to prevent the police from carrying out unlawful orders or directions from any authority to any functionary of the police throughout the province.

Clause 80 (1b) even authorises the Provincial Public Safety and Police Complaints Commissions (PPS & PCC) to recommend premature transfers of a provincial police officer before the completion of their normal tenure of three years for unsatisfactory performance of duties.

So then, what went wrong? Why did they fail? What really happened? Simply put, the bureaucrats created hurdles to render these organisations useless.

“Before PSCs, the police were under the home department, but PSCs freed the police from any such checks,” an official of the provincial commission told The Express Tribune on condition of anonymity.

“Their function was reduced to elevating police officials’ status across the broad from district police officer to the provincial police chief,” he added. The official believes that lack of interest shown by authorities and politicians did not allow the PSCs to take root.

The PPS & PCC in NWFP was formed on August 26, 2003 and has operated in a dingy room at the Home and Tribal Affairs department for around nine years instead of the 10 to 12 room secretariat that it needs. The recent police beating incidents look to change this all.

On Tuesday a two members’ bench comprising of Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhary and Justice Ghaulam Rabbani, during the case’s hearing directed the Interior Ministry, provincial home departments and Chief Commissioner Islamabad to revive the Public Safety Commissions at district level across the country.

They have a month to make the commissions operational throughout Pakistan. The feat is easier said than done, though. Each commission on a provincial level is to have 12 members and those on a district level will have nine members.

The current data present with The Express Tribune shows that the NWFP government is severely short of the required manpower for the commissions.

There are not enough district members, independent members or enough female parliamentarians available in the province for the commissions. It is yet to be seen how the provincial government meets the challenge of creating the PSCs within a month.

It will be even more interesting, should it succeed, to see whether the commissions are able to perform their intended functions.

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