Two men, both residents of Faisalabad, were in need of character certificates for their new jobs earlier this year. While one received his certificate within 24 hours – it was mailed to his house – the other man spent two months wrangling with police officials at the city’s Sadar Jaranwala police station.
“I visited the Faisalabad police’s e-station and submitted my request for a certificate, but my friend visited the police station,” explains Atif Shehzad. “I did not have to pay a single penny and the certificate arrived at my house in the next 24 hours.”
Shehzad is one of many residents of the city taking advantage of e-police stations – a pilot project launched here with plans to extend the project around the country if it is successful. While an applicant can log on to the e-station’s website from their home, e-stations have been set up in four locations to facilitate those without computer or internet access.
Modelled along the lines of existing NADRA offices or bank branches, each e-station features 3 counters. Those visiting the station collect a token number and await their turn at the counter, where an official registers their complaints or requests. The information is then passed on to the main server at the CPO Office Faisalabad, where staff is responsible for the whole process, starting from the receipt of requests or complaints to the delivery of required documents to an applicant’s address.
The stations are located at the head office of Faisalabad Industrial Estate Development and Management Company, D-Ground Peoples Colony, the head office of Pakistan Textile Exporters Association and in Jaranwala. Other e-stations are planned for Samanabad, Ghulam Muhammad Abad and Tandlianwala, on the outskirts of Faisalabad. “I was inspired to set up the e-police stations after working with the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA),” explained City Police Officer (CPO) Haidar Ashraf. “I believed that it would bring a change in the police culture of unnecessarily harassing people or creating impediments for their own vested interests rather than addressing grievances as fast as possible.”
E-police stations presently enable users to request character certificates for employment, visa or immigration purposes, verification of vehicles for sale, reports of stolen or untraced vehicles and accidents (for insurance purposes) or missing documents. The stations also offer video conferencing services for complainants and a helpdesk for businessmen.
Faisalabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Suhail Bin Rashid praised the efforts made by Ashraf and his team, particularly with reference to businessmen who often resort to paying officials in order to receive character certificates for work and travel purposes. “Businessmen say an average of five character certificates are received daily from the e-police counter set up in FCCI chamber,” he said.
Ashraf says he is committed to providing for ‘any citizen who needs the services of the police without wasting precious time or money’. In order to ensure that users of the e-police stations receive the best possible treatment, police officials have also set up a web-based complaint center that allows citizens to lodge complaints against the police through email, SMS or social media.
Ashraf says that in the last three months, 170 complaints have been registered – 28 through SMS, 59 through phone calls, and 63 through the website. Inquiries were conducted into 73 complaints and 45 cases were registered as a result. Subsequently, five police officials were suspended while 7 others were given departmental punishments. All complaints received are forwarded to a senior supervisory officer and entered into a record. Complainants are given feedback on the action taken in their complaints. “We strive to ensure that members of the community have the utmost confidence in the ethics, integrity and professional conduct of the police and the public is entitled to complain if they are not satisfied with the police service,” Ashraf says.
The website also enables users to find out details of existing FIRs, follow the progress of investigations, track a case or find contacts for supervisory police officers in the event that police staff is unhelpful or insubordinate. The website also carries news and announcements from the Faisalabad police, job vacancies and non-emergency crimes can be reported here. “We’re trying to offer a new way for the public to become involved in policing,” Ashraf says.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 1st, 2014.