Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Implementing Police Order 2002 a Delimma for Provinces

Saturday November 08, 2003-- Ramazan 12, 1424 A.H. The News Pakistan ISSN 1563-9479


Implementing Police Order 2002: a dilemma for provinces (Part I)

Afzal A Shigri

The Police Order was notified on August 14, 2002 and it was expected that it would be implemented by the end of year 2002. The new institutions envisaged in the law that were to act as a check on the restructured police have yet to be created. The misfortune is that the ones who have to implement this law are most affected by losing control over police under the new arrangement. The police thus are functioning in a legal void, it is only accountable to the executive and there is no institution to insulate it against direct interference in its professional duties. The President, therefore, had to issue a directive to the provinces to ensure that Police Order 2002 be implemented expeditiously. This was followed by a conference on July 8, 2003 by the prime minister with similar directive. These directives at the highest level of the government show that we are far from implementing the Police Reforms but a lobby of vested interests who are out to sabotage the devolution plan and the police reforms leaves no opportunity to project that all ills in the civil society and all serious crimes are being committed due to these changes that have been brought about in the system of governance in the country.

The police reforms in this country has a long history and successive governments in Pakistan realised the importance of reforming the police force in the country and in order to address this issue twenty-five reports were prepared by various commissions or committees and experts. Unfortunately, despite this obvious realisation the recommendations in these reports were never taken seriously and no meaningful reforms were introduced in the police. Only peripheral changes were made which did not have any impact whatsoever in changing the police culture in the country. The police system in Pakistan continued to be "a prisoner of history without any break away from its colonial past." The system of policing was introduced in Indo-Pak sub-continent in the backdrop of 1857 uprising. It represented a mindset that was obsessed with the maintenance of order for sustaining and protecting the interest of the empire. Nothing changed even after independence, as the system was ideal for serving narrow political interests of the people in power which could perpetuate their existence by misusing the police. It also suited the bureaucracy to have unfettered control over the police and the judiciary which was inbuilt in the Police Act 1861 and the Criminal Procedure Code and a plethora of baffling rules and regulations.

The police organisation continued to be subjected to misuse and manipulation by the vested interest. It was embarrassing and adversely affected every aspect of management of the force. Postings of SHOs were done on the wishes of the local influential persons who wanted to control the police station to deal with their rivals. The result was that with every political change or political requirement the officers at this level were transferred. According to studies carried out by Punjab and Sindh Police the average tenure of the SHO was less than three months. This kept the basic and vital unit of the force in a flux, gave rise to rampant corruption and destroyed the discipline with horrific results for the society. The situation was no better at the command levels where the executive exercised its administrative powers whimsically to serve its narrow political ends. Appointments in police at various levels, was used as political bribery and even training was interfered with. This completely destroyed the entire structure of law enforcement in the country with serious repercussions for the society.

Registration of the case, its investigation, challaning to the court and its prosecution was subjected to intense extraneous interference. Police leadership continued to be under pressure to carry out illegal orders in all facets of law enforcement and was faced with a dilemma that has been aptly described by one of the outstanding officers of PSP Mr Mohammad Abbas Khan in his report submitted by him to the government in 1996. "Laws are the will of the people articulated through legislatures. When a police officer receives a command from the executive which is in conflict with the law, which command does the police officer obey? He should obey the law but then he will simultaneously disobey the executive and he will immediately be called upon to pay a penalty. These conflicts between the law and the executive commands are so frequent and range from minor to major issues that it becomes impracticable to continuously contest the right of the executive.

Police officers, therefore, adjust themselves initially to what be described as "peripheral compromise". "This gradually degenerates into succumbing to compromise on principle. Some resist compromising on principle and they become the ‘odd man’ — the aberration of the system. They must only endure. The odds are weighed against them."

There was, therefore, a case to bring some fundamental changes in the police system to ensure a certain level of professionalism and neutrality. This, however, entailed disempowering the executive in controlling the police. This initiative was taken by a military ruler and the then Chief Executive of Pakistan in his address to the nation on October 17, 1999 presented his seven points reform agenda that included ensuring law and order and de-politicisation of state institutions. This was a bold decision as it deprives the executive of authority to use the law enforcement agencies for manipulating the political scene in the country.

This political commitment was translated into reality when National Reconstruction Bureau presented its Police Plan in the year 2000 and Police Order 2002 was issued. The new law brings fundamental structural and organisational changes in the system. It provided a vital change at the district level where the responsibility of law and order had been assigned to police. The new arrangement envisaged an independent police with external checks on its functioning. There was also a need to define the role of the zila nazim and his relationship with the police. It was a delicate issue and care had to be taken to ensure that instead of depoliticising the police we may not end up with making it more acute by placing police under political control at the district level. The amendment in the law therefore made police answerable to the zila nazim only in matters of public order and public complaints.

(To be concluded)

The writer is a retired IG of police


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