Draft for Police Act 2014: Civil activists stress need for overhauling policing standards

A number of NGOs and civil rights groups have devised a draft policy for reforms in the police department.

Our Correspondent July 20, 2014

SUKKUR: What the country desperately needs is to make the police department a democratic institution and reform the current policing standards through a collaborative effort from the government and the civil society.

These views were expressed by speakers at a seminar organised by NGO Rozan. The seminar was held at a hotel in Sukkur on Friday and was meant to introduce and subsequently discuss the merits of a draft of the Sindh Police Act 2014.

An alliance of civil society organisations, collectively known as the Pakistan Forum on Democratic Policing (PFDP), has come up with a draft for the Sindh Police Act-2014. The draft has been developed under the supervision of Justice (Retired) Nasir Aslam Zahid. Speakers at the launch of the draft included Pakistan Muslim League - Functional MPA Nusrat Sehar Abbasi, Larkana Hindu Panchayat chairperson Advocate Kalapna Devi and Rozan managing director Babar Bashir. MPA Syed Nasir Hussain Shah from the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party was also invited but didn’t show up for the event. Meanwhile Muttahida Qaumi Movement MPA Saleem Bandhani left the venue without speaking due to an urgent meeting.

In her address, MPA Abbasi said that a lot of legislation had been done since the creation of Pakistan, but the ratio of implementation was very poor. She said that it was not the responsibility of NGOs and the civil society to suggest reforms in certain departments, especially the police department, adding that it was ironic that the 1861 police act was still being used.

Abbasi was of the view that policing would not be reformed until it was completely depoliticised. MNAs and MPAs, soon after taking the oath, start the struggle to get their favourite police officers posted in their constituencies, she said. “Such is the sorry state of affairs.”

Lambasting the provincial government of Sindh, she said that billions of rupees were allocated in the budget for the police department each year, but no one knew where the money was being spent. Apart from the funds allocated in the current budget, Rs5 billion had been earmarked for the police department. There was still no visible improvement in the services, she stressed.

Abbasi was of the view that the main reason behind the sad state of affairs was the lack of accountability. “These rulers do not care about the people who voted them to power,” she said. “It’s time the civil society woke up and made the rulers realise their responsibilities.”

Larkana Hindu Panchayat chairperson Advocate Kalpana Devi, in her address, painted a bleak picture of the thana culture in the province. She lamented that police officials started the dialogue with abusive language and advanced to slapping and torture. Speaking about the draft proposal, Devi said that the Act looked too good to be true.

“So many inspector generals have been transferred and posted in Sindh during the last one year. How can we even expect change for the good?” she asked. “How can we expect the police officers to perform better without the guarantee of a specified tenure?” Devi was of the view that a police official working for Rs25,000 per month could not be expected to work with full dedication and honesty.

For his part, Rozan’s managing director Babar Bashir said that police stations must be the central to all reforms in the policing structure. He stressed that officers must be provided security of tenure to allow them to deliver, adding that increasing the role of women in policing can do wonders.

Bashir went on to say that promotions of police officers must be based on merit and performance, rather than on political favours, which was the norm in most cases. According to him, development and research in forensics and methods of investigation was of great necessity to bringing about reform.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 21st, 2014.