The Sindh Information and Temporary Residents Act 2015 offers a roadmap to negotiate new equations which society demands between police and the individual. At a time when eliminating militancy has become the order of the day, the legislation seeks to take all the necessary precautions to adopt a firm stance to resolve the crisis.
According to the new law, property dealers, landlords and tenants in Sindh are expected to inform their nearest police station about temporary residents living on their property. The requirement comes with a stringent deadline and strict punishment. People must submit these details within 48 hours to avoid spending six months in prison. This framework will provide a suitable means to monitor activities and exercise control. However, it is likely to present fresh challenges which require immediate attention.
At this critical juncture, the epicentre of this conflict is no longer restricted to the treasury bench’s reluctance to accept amendments proposed by the opposition. On the contrary, another clash of priorities has assumed centre-stage. As citizens of a country where the image of the police force is confined to static stereotypes of corruption, many of us will be hesitant to share information with the police. According to a parliamentary leader in the opposition, the legislation might sow the seeds for the creation of a police state and trigger distrust in the legal system.
On the other hand, such measures will also serve as the building blocks for peace and stability in society. With the memory of the Army Public School massacre still fresh and the iron-hand of militancy continuing to unleash havoc, the National Action Plan is our only lease on life as a country.
As a result, the new law must balance these competing aims without jumping into the fray. The 2015 legislation can only be enforced if the public understands its value. A series of practical steps can be taken in this regard. For instance, the police force should introduce an awareness drive to ensure that citizens invest their trust in them. Furthermore, police officials must help people understand the implications of their indifference. They should be made to realise the gravity of the challenges posed by militancy so they know that the conflict could one day reach their backyard.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 16th, 2015.