Politics and Policing

By: Editorial Team
Published: March 1, 2017
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Dr. Muhammad Shoaib Suddle

Former Inspector General of Police in Sindh and Balochistan who spearheaded Police Act 2002

Police reforms
Police reforms are needed on an urgent basis. Our long-needed transformation from colonial policing, meant to perpetuate ‘rule of the ruler’, to democratic policing, mandated to uphold ‘rule of law’, can only be realised by effecting necessary changes in our outmoded policing doctrine.

Autonomous policing
The police need to be completely independent and autonomous of external control. However, in the sphere of policy oversight, ‘superintendence’ over the police is a key responsibility of the government.

In a democracy, the purpose of a politically-neutral superintendence is to ensure that the police functions as a credible instrument of rule of law, not a coercive tool at the hands of the powerful.

Accountability mechanism
Effective, internally and externally based, police accountability mechanisms, enjoying the trust of the citizens, particularly the weaker sections of society, are integral to modern policing. Though internal accountability mechanisms generally prove more efficient and effective, there is always a need of adequate provision for independent inquiries and investigations against the police.

Transfers and postings
Postings and transfers, in a modern police organisation, are part of an internal direction and control function. In Pakistan, except for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, this function – in so far as it relates to the Police Service of Pakistan (PSP) officers – rests with both the IGP and the government, leading to unwarranted dilution of the former’s role.

The responsibility for postings/transfers of junior officers, including SHOs, appropriately rests with the District Police Officers (DPOs). It is critical that a minimum tenure of two to three years is secured for all ranks.

Police Ordinance 2002
The first necessary step towards meaningful police reform is replacing the anachronistic Police Act of 1861 with the Police Order 2002 that seeks to professionalise the police by enabling it to function freely, fairly and autonomously.

What Sindh did (by reverting to Police Act 1861) was a hasty step based on a misreading of the 18th Constitutional Amendment. It was a step taken in violation of Article 143 of the Constitution. Let’s hope that the superior judiciary will settle this issue once and for all.

Political oversight needs to be confined only to the extent of ensuring that adequate police service is maintained for upholding rule of law

Provincial autonomy and improved policing
In theory, the 18th Constitutional Amendment did not change policing and the criminal justice system in any way whatsoever. In practice, it has led to the retrograde step of provincial Police Acts replacing the central Police Order 2002.

The resulting fragmentation of the existing policing system has led to significant weakening of the all-important coordination role of the Federal Government, particularly in the context of serious crime having inter-provincial and international ramifications.

Political interference
Political oversight needs to be confined only to the extent of ensuring that adequate police service is maintained for upholding rule of law in the country.

Police weaknesses
Both the political and the police leadership are responsible for police weaknesses to varying degrees. However, in a democracy, the principal responsibility for poor policing essentially rests with the government.

Terrorism challenges
Despite functioning under a broken system, the police have delivered well, offering extreme sacrifices while maintaining peace and order in the country.

They lack resources; their operations are routinely interfered with; their recruitment and postings/transfers and promotions are extraneously influenced; their training leaves a lot to be desired; their relationship with the people is frightening, not friendly – due to widespread complaints of corruption and high-handedness.

What is needed is a fundamental transformation in the professional and ethical content of policing. We need a police system which is politically neutral, non-authoritarian, accountable and responsive to the community, well-resourced, professionally highly rated, accountable, and last but not least, a system which is an effective and credible instrument of the rule of law.

There are no shortcuts, and no easy solutions. What is lacking is political will and determined professional police leadership. The long-needed revamping and restructuring of Police has to be a top national priority. There is not a moment to lose.

Rana Sanaullah Khan

Punjab’s law minister and a Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz stalwart

Police reforms
Former President General (retd) Pervez Musharraf introduced reforms in the police system through the Police Order 2002 which is combination of good and bad things.

We have been continuing with the same Police Order since 2007 and ultimately reached the conclusion that it required changes. Under the Police Order 2002, the police enjoyed complete autonomy without any bureaucratic check on it.

Autonomous policing
The police cannot be a state within the state. It has to be answerable to the government. Different countries have varying systems to oversee police performance.

It can be controlled through an independent Public Safety Commission comprising elected representatives and members from the civil society in a democratic way.

Accountability mechanism
Police does have an internal accountability mechanism for being a disciplined force. But unlike the army, the Constitution provides police officers the option of judicial review against any discriminatory decision.

Transfers and postings
The federal government after consultation with the provincial government appoints the Inspector General of Police under the law. The provincial government moves three names to the federal government which makes a final decision after due consultation.

Similarly, the Chief Minister has the prerogative to appoint senior officers up to the rank of Grade 19 and the IGP can appoint officers of lower ranks. It is the right of the provincial government to appoint the best available officers on important posts for achieving better results.

The police cannot be a state within the state. It has to be answerable to the government

Police Ordinance 2002
The Police Order 2002 envisaged some checks on the police in the shape of Public Safety Commissions and Police Complaint Authorities but these have never been made operational. Now we want to revamp the Police Order 2002 in accordance with the prevailing scenario.

For that purpose, we have constituted three different committees with the agenda of improving the investigation system, changing the incumbent ambiguous nomenclature of police officers like PPO, CCPO and DPO and strengthening the Public Safety Commissions. Following recommendations from these committees, the government will incorporate amendments in the Police Order.

Provincial autonomy and improved policing
Policing is a provincial subject and provincial governments can handle it better. Like in Punjab, the government is adopting all possible measures to improve the working of the police.

In order to maintain law and order, the government had developed the Dolphin Force and PRU forces to combat street crime. The counter terrorism force is trained for fighting against hardened criminals.

Political interference
It has become the fashion for television anchors to make comments on the police without knowing the ground realities. Police is engaged with the masses.

In case of police excesses, the public approach their elected representatives for justice. It is the duty of elected representatives to get relief for the masses.

Police weaknesses
Political interference does not make the police weak. It’s more of an internal mechanism within the department which is responsible for making it weak or strong.

If some officers refuse to obey wrong dictates from political bosses, at the maximum they will be replaced and nothing beyond that. But the wrong attitude from bosses and their negative approach towards subordinates is adversely affecting the department.

Terrorism challenges
The police have no specific training for countering terrorism. Their basic job is to maintain law and order. The Counter Terrorism Department was formed with a specific purpose and they were given special training for countering terrorists.

About the Author
Editorial Team
The Editorial team of Bol Narratives