Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Police & Politicians

A shared history and similar challenges but the now there is a resistance to the whimsical decisions of the politicians. In Pakistan many officers chose to resign in a number of public sector organizations when asked to sign controversial agreements. Civil servants have also approached courts against premature transfers of the civil servants. Politicians despite clear judgments by the Supreme Courts have continued to harass the civil servants "administratively" who refuse to comply with illegal orders.

Police & politicians

THE Sheena Bora murder case in Mumbai created a sensation the like of which was not felt for a long time. The wife of a TV magnate, Indrani Mukherjea, was alleged to have strangled to death her daughter in complicity with her former husband and her chauffeur. The commissioner of police, Mumbai, Rakesh Maria, personally undertook the investigation. He enjoys a deserved reputation for integrity.
On Sept 8, while the investigation was in the last stage, the government of Maharashtra abruptly transferred Rakesh Maria to another post, 22 days before his tenure as police commissioner was due to end.
He was replaced by another highly respected senior police officer Ahmed Javed. However, following a public outcry the government performed a somersault just hours later — Maria was to continue with the investigation into the case. Understandably, he demurred. The order emanated from Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis personally.

The police force is a creature of statute, not of any executive order.

At issue was neither Rakesh Maria nor Ahmad Javed’s fitness for the post. It was a chief minister’s summary removal of a commissioner of police without according him a hearing to explain his case. Public law jurisprudence has progressed to a stage where even an administrative order is held illegal if the rules of natural justice are not followed. They clearly were not in this case.
In 1977, the Indian government appointed the National Police Commission comprising persons of eminence. It submitted eight reports.
What the second report said is highly relevant to the Maria case. “While suspension acts as a great humiliating factor, a transfer acts as a severe economic blow and disruption of the police officer’s family, children’s education, etc. The threat of transfer/suspension is the most potent weapon in the hands of the politician to bend down the police to his will.
“We have been told in several states about the frequent transfer of police personnel ordered on direct instructions from political levels in government, in disregard of the rule that the transfer of the personnel concerned fell within the normal domain of the supervisory ranks within the police”; neither the chief minister nor the home minister.
The commission pointed out that, apart from the “political sources”, industrialists and businessmen also try to influence the police. Section 3 of the Police Act, 1861 confers on the states powers of “the superintendence of the police force”.
The commission noted that “in the guise of executive instructions … attempts have been made to subordinate police personnel to executive requirements”.
But, the police force is a creature of statute, not of any executive order. In a classic ruling, Lord Denning said, “I hold it to be the duty of the commissioner of police, as it is of every chief constable, to enforce the law of the land. He is not the servant of anyone, save of the law itself.
“No minister of the crown can tell him that he must, or must not, keep observation on this place or that, or that he must, or must not, prosecute this man or that man. Nor can any police authority tell him so. The responsibility for law enforcement lies on him. He is answerable to the law and to the law alone.”
Although the home minister is in charge of the police and police administration and is answerable to parliament about it, he has no power to direct the police as to how they should exercise their statutory powers, duties or discretion.
Under the Criminal Procedure Code and the Police Act, the statutory duty is of the police to prevent crime and bring criminals to justice. The minister can at best pass on information of the commission of an offence to police to investigate. So also in regard to threats of the commission of an offence. “If the minister were to give orders about arrests, to arrest or not to arrest, that would be an end of the rule of law,” a distinguished lawyer, who had served as home minister, K.M. Munshi said.
He added: “It is the constitutional duty of the minister, as head of the department in charge of the police, who are instruments of maintenance of public order and enforcement of criminal law, to ensure that the police discharge their functions and exercise their powers properly and diligently. But beyond that, the minister cannot go and issue specific instructions as to the manner of exercise of their statutory powers.”
Since the police acts under a statute, it can be compelled by a writ of mandamus, issued by the courts at the instance of a citizen, to do its duty under a law. Superior courts in England were petitioned to enforce the laws on betting, obscenity and the suppression of crime.
But unless the statute is tightened to provide protection to the police, judicial dicta will prove futile.
The writer is an author and a lawyer based in Mumbai.
Published in Dawn, November 7th, 2015

Monday, October 26, 2015

Muharram security challenge

Muharram security challenge

By Afzal A Shigri

EVERY year Muslims all over the world recall the tragedy of Karbala in Muharram, and they observe it according to a variety of traditions. The tragedy is a gripping epic of the battle between right and wrong and victory in apparent defeat.
Even in peaceful times, Muharram congregations and processions pose a huge challenge — as we saw in Thursday’s attack on an imambargah in Balochistan’s Bolan district, and last night with a bombing of a procession in Jacobabad — in terms of management for a country like Pakistan, which has a range of traditions associated with the observance of the occasion. Pooling all their resources, the law-enforcement agencies work together on security and traffic management. Precautions have to be taken to ensure that historical flashpoints of conflict are carefully monitored so as to prevent an untoward incident as the latter can escalate into widespread sectarian disturbances.
Within the prevailing security environment, these challenges are formidable as any incident can spiral out of control and has the potential to engulf the entire country. In the last 10 years, a number of serious incidents of terrorism have led to widespread violence. For instance in 2009, the Karachi bomb blast on Muharram 10 resulted in extensive lawlessness across the city. In view of the serious consequences of such incidents, the provincial governments and the federal government have mounted large-scale efforts to arrange security for the processions and to provide effective security cover to the congregations.

The key to peace is the implementation of improved procedures for management of processions.

Over the years, with the rise in acts of terrorism in Pakistan, the law-enforcement agencies have also ramped up their efforts to enhance security during Muharram by improving the cordon around the main processions and denying access to the terrorists. But the threats of terrorism in other areas have not receded, and the possibility keeps the entire security apparatus on edge during this month.
When certain terror outfits — as a matter of policy and propaganda — question the beliefs of various Muslim sects by way of justifying violence against them, it becomes very difficult for a thinly spread-out security apparatus during Muharram to ensure protection to all. It is indeed a matter of satisfaction that, except for the unfortunate incident blighting the Ashura procession in Rawalpindi in 2013, there has been no major terror attack during Muharram for the last five years. The Rawalpindi incident too can sadly be attributed to administrative/security failure and sheer incompetence as it took place at a location which is a known sensitive flashpoint.
The usual practice had been to deploy security personnel strategically so as to prevent untoward incidents of the kind that took place that year. In this case, the district police of Rawalpindi failed to take adequate steps, which resulted in casualties and widespread disturbances.
This year, security for Muharram presents new challenges because Operation Zarb-i-Azb has dismantled the sanctuaries and command structure of the militants, and the ongoing operations by police and Rangers have denied refuge to them in the rest of the country. Yet the recovery of a huge arsenal of weapons and explosives and the arrest of a new breed of university-educated radicals shows the reach and the strength of these terrorist groups. Such widespread radicalization and allegiance of the extremists to foreign militant groups are alarming signs, for they reflect the rise of a borderless and invisible enemy that is difficult to fight or root out.
The good news is that many of the ulema and religious leaders across the sectarian divide have realized the gravity of the situation and are actively involved in maintaining peace, particularly in areas which are historically prone to sectarian confrontation. They have not only participated in the peace committees but have also pleaded for sectarian harmony in the country. However, the interrogation of the terrorists arrested recently shows that, despite being on the run, these extremists have the resilience to regroup and remount attacks with the help of their sympathizers. This reflects their resolve to challenge the writ of the state in the hope of triggering widespread sectarian violence so that the relentless pressure on them is relieved.
Tactically the arrangements are a success as the police and the civil armed forces, supported by the army, have been successful in maintaining peace during this critical period. As mentioned earlier, the operations against the terrorists across the entire country have, in general, disrupted their nefarious plans to attack Muharram processions and congregations. The newly introduced CCTV cameras and modern police control rooms have also been of great help for the law enforcers. As part of this effort, Punjab has gone one step ahead, launching a campaign to control misuse of loudspeakers for broadcasting inflammatory speeches and to confiscate hate publications/materials.
Key to this sustained peace is the implementation of improved procedures for management of the processions and direct involvement of the senior leadership of the law-enforcement forces. Despite the constraints discussed here, the maintenance of peace proves that order can be maintained by the present law-enforcement structures, if they exhibit the resolve and exercise the will to do so. Hitherto, they have been held back due to the lack of political will and absence of clear vision with a workable strategic plan.
The government should build on this newfound tactical superiority and convert it into a long-term plan as uprooting terrorism is a long and arduous journey requiring an integrated efficient intelligence network and effective police to act on the actionable information.
The ministry of interior should take the lead by activating the National Counter-Terrorism Authority, improving the law-enforcement structures and eliminating the major terrorist groups through the newly established military courts. Ultimately, the civilian government has the responsibility to devise long-term policies to sustain this peace and de-radicalize society.
The hapless people of this country have suffered for a long time and the lack of state protection for ordinary citizens has created a governance vacuum. If matters continue like this, the vacuum will be filled by those who will not allow the state to collapse. The political government has yet again been presented with an opportunity to re-establish itself, and it must act before it is too late.
The writer is a former IGP Sindh.
Published in Dawn, October 24th, 2015

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Address in opening session of National Police Executive Seminar

I had a chance to address the senior officers of Police Service of Pakistan in the seminar arranged by National Police Bureau. As a retired police officer I had noted the absence of an organized institutional arrangement for the welfare of the families of the police officers who had laid down their lives in line of duty of or had been injured I used this opportunity to raise this issue in my address. It is disappointing that despite thousands of causalities police leadership have yet to create a functional institutional arrangement to look after the suffering families of the Shaheeds and the injured. I hope that the officers who were present in the seminar will take some action to address this most important matter that has a direct impact on the morale of the force that they command.

Afzal Ali Shigri 

Address in opening session of
National Police Executive Seminar held on 19th October, 2015 by National Police Bureau
in collaboration with ICITAP Pakistan

My dear Bother Officers distinguished guests:

Let me begin by expressing my immense pleasure at the opportunity to participate in this prestigious forum. I consider it to be a great honour and privilege to be called upon to address and to participate in this conference for the senior executives of the Police.

Indeed, today’s conference serves as a delightful occasion for me to be once again sharing a platform with my ‘brother in arms’, in order to highlight key challenges facing today’s police force and to explore possible solutions to these conundrums.

In attempting to discuss the challenges confronting the contemporary police force, we must be mindful of the fact that today’s police force is not a force operating in times of peace. Rather, it is an embattled one, fighting against an amorphous, and at times, invisible enemy, constrained by political interests and held back by a lack of resources. The people are looking up to you to restore peace and make Pakistan safe. We can only do it if we can win the trust of the men that we command. Police in Pakistan despite its negative image is in reality a fine force that has repeatedly proved to be a dependable body of men who have ultimately maintained order in the society. The key to success is with its leadership and I have the honour to be speaking to them in this conference.

The police force now numbers about 400,000 personnel, and every day, these brave men and women lock eyes with death, as they skirmish with terrorists, carry out dangerous door-to-door searches, raid terror cells and protect key installations and the public alike from the rabid threat of terror attacks. Countless police officers and men have embraced martyrdom in this endless battle or sustained life-altering injuries. Their families now languish in obscurity, largely neglected by the force, in the service of which these officers and men sacrificed their lives.

Let me share with you some of the cases that came to my notice where this apathy was visible. In one case a young policeman lost his life in confronting a rowdy crowd and the committee set up to examine his compensation case in its collective wisdom declared that he could not be declared a shaheed depriving his five year daughter and three years old son and a young wife from the special compensation package for the shaheeds. I had to seek the intervention of the IGP. In another case an ASI was dismissed on the specific orders of a superior for alleged recording the recovery of narcotics less than the actual recovery. Later on it transpired that the complaint lodged through electronic means was false and initiated by the terrorists who were smuggling the drug. Tragically the officer was also killed by them in his home town. Yet in another case reportedly gallantry award was not recommended to an officer who was seriously injured in stopping a suicide attack. The reason sighted was inadequate security arrangement by him. Yet in a very well known case a number of police officers charged under anti terrorism law continue to suffer for years while stopping a torch bearing lawyers protest procession. Police as an institution failed to protect them from the wrath of the lawyers and indifference of the courts.

It is a great pity that despite great losses, the police service has neglected to create a solid structure for the welfare of officers and men, especially those who have paid the ultimate price in the service of their country. At a time when their morale needs to be the strongest and when faith in the ability of their service to take care of their dependents has to be vindicated, the police service has done little to merit the sacrifice of its officers and men. It is also critical that those who take the initiative and confront the criminals are also fully protected from malicious and false allegations and in case of law suits the institution provides the best defense lawyers in the never ending litigation.

 It is my considered belief that if we want to win the battle against the terrorists and radicals, we must create an exemplary support network, structure for welfare and relevant provisions for our personnel, so that when they face the enemy in the battleground, they do so in the assurance, rather than vain hope, that their families will be looked after and provided for, in the event of their martyrdom. They also expect to be protected against any prosecution for their acts in good faith in line of duty and not abandoned just because of a media report that someone in power has taken note of. That is what the men demand of the commander and in return give loyalty.

I must end by thanking Mr Inam Ghani the Director General, Mr. Kaleem Imam Director and Mr. Miller head of the ICITAP in Pakistan for having the foresight to arrange this forum so that we may set into motion changes, which will address the core challenges besetting today’s police force. I hope that today’s conference will one day be remembered as the symbolic and practical turning point in the efforts to strengthen the morale and resolve of police officers and men, so that the police force gains a reputation for ‘taking care of its own’.


Sunday, August 9, 2015

No plan of action

No plan of action

Afzal Ali Shigri

THE wanton terrorist attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar on Dec 16, 2014, with its chilling images of a bloodbath perpetrated against innocent, defenceless children, left the nation devastated. Regrettably, the provincial government, instead of accepting responsibility for the breach of security, blamed the army for the lapse, while the federal government merely condemned the act and vowed to bring the terrorists to justice.
Even for a country that has suffered relentless terror attacks over the years, this time it was different. As the nation cried out for a fitting response, the government convened a multi-party conference that resulted in a comprehensive road map in the shape of a National Action Plan (NAP) to eliminate militancy. Its 20 points are essentially a statement of objectives and comprise a range of operational and administrative measures. The first can be further divided into those led by the army and those by the civilian police forces.
The army responded promptly to the Dec 16 outrage by intensifying the ongoing Zarb-i-Azb operation according to a well-thought-out strategic plan. Upon completion of one year of the operation, the army has achieved remarkable outcomes. It targeted the areas that housed the terrorists’ command structures that undertook planning and provided logistical support for acts of terrorism across the length and breadth of the country. The army operations were concentrated in the tribal belt adjacent to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which immediately improved the security situation in that province as well as in others to an extent. The army also provided support to the provincial governments by sharing intelligence and even real-time actionable information in selected cases. Through the apex committees it continues to prod the reluctant governments into some action.

The fight against terrorism seems to be low on the government’s list of priorities.

Responsibility for carrying out the other portion of NAP was that of the civilian government, with the Ministry of Interior taking the lead in addressing the full spectrum of terrorism. It was expected that a comprehensive strategic plan by the federal government would have an inbuilt monitoring mechanism, but that apparently is not the case. However, only disjointed actions — generally reactive in nature — have followed, characterised by a lack of inter-agency coordination and poor planning marked only by futile meetings. The terrorist threat remains very real despite the destruction of their logistical support and command structures, even though the incidence of terrorism has come down on the whole. Innocent citizens are still targeted and the response is routine condemnatory platitudes, compensation for victims’ families, registration of cases and sadly comical warnings to the perpetrators of these atrocities. There is no visible, organised effort on the part of the governments to eliminate the terrorist groups or their affiliates on a long-term basis.
Apathy characterises the approach to this important challenge. This is reflected in the non-release of funds to the National Counter Terrorism Authority that was meant to be the key agency to collate intelligence for coordinated action by all the forces. Moreover, instead of a professional, a retired civil servant has been posted as its head. No dedicated counterterrorism force has been established as envisaged in NAP. The provincial police — essentially on their own initiative — have taken action, producing sometimes commendable results. It is indeed a miracle that amidst this confusion, in the absence of political will or ownership by the civilian government, the police forces continue to confront and fight the terrorists against heavy odds, amidst relentless casualties and lack of resources.
The fight against terrorism seems to be low on the government’s list of priorities. Along with the provinces and the Islamabad Capital Territory, it has for all intents and purposes decided to leave the counteroffensive to the army, while plugging in the gaps, wherever possible, by inducting the Rangers. The latter are practically an extension of the army with nominal control by the civilian government. Intermittently, the provinces create small, fancy ‘specialised’ units. These are showcased as an answer to terrorism of a magnitude that poses an existential threat to the state. Even these units, however, end up providing protection to VIPs or function outside the regular command structure, remaining directly responsible to a few powerful political personalities.
It must be said most emphatically that only administrative measures and reforms can permanently disable the terror structures. Half-hearted, scattered actions are not enough. No effective action has been taken to control hate literature, and proscribed organisations are circumventing the bans on them by rebranding themselves and operating openly. Some are functioning as humanitarian NGOs, while a few are active as political parties. Even the decision to lift the moratorium on the death penalty has scarcely impacted those convicted of acts of terrorism. There is neither any dedicated agency nor programme for de-radicalisation or, for that matter, any move towards madressah reforms, which constitute NAP’s most important long-term objectives.
It must also be pointed out that the police, the agency on the front line of the anti-terrorism fight, do not even figure in NAP’s 20 points. Presumably, they are included in the section on the reform of the criminal justice system, but then, there is no sign that this issue is being addressed either. The police are required to fight terrorism without adequate resour­ces. To make matters worse, without any exception, there is continuous political interference in policing within every province. All of this results in a generally ill-equipped police force, confronted by a collapsing infrastructure and led by a weakened leadership.
NAP should have been implemented on all counts with greater commitment and led by a team of professionals directly under the country’s chief executive. The Ministry of Interior officers are neither trained nor experienced enough to plan and execute such a strategy. Comprehensively restoring order and dismantling the infrastructure of terror will constitute the closing chapter in a long and vicious battle that will now take place on the streets of Pakistani cities, a fight that will be spearheaded by the civilian police. The conclusion of Zarb-i-Azb will bring new challenges, but further delays in implementation cannot be afforded. Without serious steps, a peaceful Pakistan will remain an elusive dream.
The writer is a former inspector general of the police, Sindh.
Published in Dawn, August 1st, 2015