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Monday, July 15, 2024

Evidence based policing and criminal justice system of Pakistan

Most of the research has shown that evidence-based decision-making is more sustainable and professional in its outlook. Pakistan is in dire need of such a decision making and political and executive leadership can be convinced to make more evidence-based decisions for successive generations and to earn international repute as a well-managed and rationally governed country. 

The politicization of criminal processes adversely shapes the perception of the criminal justice system of a country and Pakistan is no exception. Ontologically, the criminal justice system of Pakistan was colonial in nature and its avowed aim was to control the populace as an instrument and not to ensure public safety. There has, therefore, always been a quest to reform the criminal justice system in a manner that it becomes more rule-based and professional. To do this, there are two models. One is to carry out local research that caters to indigenous problems and offers solutions that suit local requirements. The other is to look at international best practices.

One of the best practices that warrant consideration is the concept of Evidence-Based Policing (EBP). EBP has been propagated by Professor Lawrence Sherman of the University of Cambridge and its impact has been profound. He coined the term in an article in 1998 while writing for the National Police Foundation (now called National Policing Institute) in the US. It remained popular in developed countries and, at least, four societies of practitioners and academia started working on EBP in the UK, the US, Australia and New Zealand.

Read more: UN police doctrine – Lessons for Pakistan?

Understanding the matter better

Due to wide recognition of the EBP, in 2021, Dr. Hina Kalyal, an academic from Pakistan who is presently working in Canada on policing issues, along with Laura Huey, Renee Mitchell and Roger Pegram authored a guide styled Implementing Evidence-Based Research: A How to Guide for Police Organizations (Guide). The Guide differentiates between data and evidence by stating that the former has no meaning of its own whereas the latter is the interpretation of data.

The question that may be posed to policymakers of the administration of the criminal justice system and academia is whether EBP is applicable to Pakistan. If yes, how and to what extent? The answer is not straightforward and may require a deeper appreciation of the concept of EBP. For this, one has to look at the working definition of EBP (as adopted by the UK College of Policing in 2018).

It states:

“Evidence-based policing is an approach in which police officers and staff work with academics and other partners to create, review, and use the best available evidence to inform and challenge policing policies, practices, and decisions”.

The bare reading of the definition shows that it is knowledge-based and collaborative in nature. The knowledge-based solution to societal problems having a law and order dimension is, in itself, quite a task. Notwithstanding this limitation and the fact that academia in this field is underdeveloped, it may be noted that police organizations in Pakistan are data-rich in the sense that there are established protocols for recording different activities. This enabling feature of police organizations may serve as a point of departure to practice EBP in not only policing but also in other areas of the criminal justice system as well. For elucidation, the possible domains that may be considered for the application of EBP to the criminal justice system of Pakistan are:

  1. Measurement of crime

In Pakistan, each of the provincial police organizations measures criminal activity as per proformas drawn up by senior police leadership administratively. Generally, the proformas are outdated and do not cater to new legislation. These proformas do not properly capture and reflect the crimes against women, children and transgender. The categories of street crime, auto theft, kidnapping, drugs and narcotics are also not properly reflected. Article 166 of the Police Order, 2002 provides for legislative cover for recording the data and statistics related to crime and criminals.

Read more: Nelson Mandela rules and the criminal justice system of Pakistan

It, however, does not provide for maintaining special databases related to sex offenders, repeat offenders and receivers of stolen property. A more comprehensive legal framework is needed to deal with aspects of data collection, storage, sharing, aggregation and validation that safeguard the dignity and privacy of citizens. Due to this gap, the judiciary keeps on reviewing the actions of police organizations. Recently, in August 2022, in the Punjab, Justice Ali Zia Bajwa of the Lahore High Court passed an order in which he directed the Punjab Police to reflect final outcome of criminal proceedings along with the computerized record of the accused.

Despite the passage of the Zainab Alert, Response and Recovery Act, 2020, there is need to further legislate on the subject and for periodic review of the categories of crime that get measured. The data so collected then can inform the research on policing and law and order in the country that can help decision-makers in identifying priority areas and to allocate resources accordingly.

2. Criminalization of civil and family disputes

The tendency to criminalize civilly, family and commercial disputes are on the rise in Pakistan. This is obviously due to shortcomings in the provision of civil justice to parties to disputes where the state is usually not a party. The growing trend is reflected in almost all campaigns encouraging free registration of criminal cases in major cities as most of the civil, land and commercial disputes enter the criminal justice stream during such campaigns. The very charitable and altruistic spirit of the powers conferred to judicial officers under sections 22-A and 22 B Code of Criminal Procedure are often utilized to further illegal causes.

For example, Justice Tariq Saleem Sheikh of the Lahore High Court, while deciding a case of cheque dishonor, noted that the bounced cheque was issued to the payee on the intercession of a Jirga, which was convened to settle and affect compromise in a murder case. The Jirga had overseen the presentation of the cheque by the father of a girl who was promised to be married to the victim’s family of a murder case as a means of compensation for the murder. Justice Tariq Saleem quashed the criminal case, which was registered after obtaining an order under section 22-A Code of the Criminal Procedure Code from a judge.

Read more: Roe v. Wade to Dobbs v. Jackson: Legal reasonings and law making

He declared that the tradition of Sawara in which a girl is married as compensation for marriage is against international law, Islamic law and national law specifically against section 24 of the Contract Act that declares a contract illegal if its object is illegal. Registration of criminal cases with illegal objects must be repulsed by collecting evidence on the subject of false, frivolous and illegal criminal cases and then amending the law of registration of criminal cases suitably to extend the protection of human rights and the rule of law to the public at large.

3. Urban policing

Another domain where EBP can do wonders is in urban policing. With the advent of the concept of safe cities that have now got legitimacy and legality affirmed through provincial enactments (like the Punjab Safe Cities Authority Act 2016 and the Sindh Safe Cities Authority Act, 2019), there is a likelihood that these authorities will provide troves of data gathered through the platform of safe cities. The data so collected can be used to highlight hotspots of crime, traffic congestion and road safety. The data can also be used to plan joint operations by the city administration and police for the removal of illegal encroachments.

4. Police Administration

The EBP can help in police administration. With the Punjab Police leading in the digitalization of police records, and human and material resources, there is ample scope to use data-driven research to allocate resources within the police. There is also a robust national plan of integration and enabling interoperable data within police organizations. These data sets can be used to improve the internal working of the police and in tracking and mapping delinquent police officers for police accountability.

Read more: Criminal justice response to extremism in Pakistan: Priyantha case

Globally, decision-making in the public and private sectors has been researched extensively. Most of the research has shown that evidence-based decision-making is more sustainable and professional in its outlook. Pakistan is in dire need of such a decision making and political and executive leadership can be convinced to make more evidence based decisions for successive generations and to earn international repute as a well-managed and rationally governed country.



Kamran Adil is currently serving as Deputy Inspector General of Punjab police. He studied law at Oxford University and writes and lectures on international law. The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.