Has Punjab Police Initiated a Crackdown Against Criminals?

PTI promised to reform Punjab police after coming into power. However, it failed to fulfil its promises due to ‘complex’ socio-political scenario in the province. Now the question is will the incumbent IG police introduce institutional reforms or not?

Punjab Police

Punjab police has reportedly initiated a crackdown against the criminals across the province. In the first phase, the Lahore police on Saturday claimed to have arrested as many as 178 suspects from different areas of the city in the last 24 hours. In a statement, the police said that they also recovered 26 pistols, two rifles, ammunition, drugs, and liquor from their possession.

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Meanwhile, Cantt division police busted a gang and arrested its member’s along with recoveries worth more than Rs0.25 million. Out of the 178, nine are proclaimed offenders of A and B categories in cases of theft, fraud and other crimes & were arrested along with 15 Court Offenders.

Cantt police have also arrested 70 people for violating kite flying, aerial firing, bagging, price control, and loudspeaker act.

Earlier on January 28, at least five police officials had been arrested in a case pertaining to alleged kidnapping for ransom in Faisalabad.

Read more: Police Officers Must Strengthen Relations With People for Better Policing

According to the police, the officials had ‘kidnapped’ two citizens, Masood and Sarwar, from the office of SP Central Intelligence Agency and shifted them to an unidentified place. The police officials had sought Rs1.5 million as ransom from their families and threatened to kill their beloved if they could not pay the amount that they had demanded.

The officials had released the abducted citizen after receiving six lakh as ransom from their families through a frontman.

Punjab police under criticism

Police in Punjab has been facing severe criticism after a series of cases went viral. The police officers could be seen beating up the accused persons and making videos. The former IG police took notice of the matter and banned smartphones within the premises of police stations which drew public criticism.

PTI government is also under a verbal attack on social media for not being able to show seriousness towards reforming the police.

Reforming Punjab Police: A Question of Political Will?

Syeda Aminah Gilani, a Lahore-based academic and political commentator, believes that the police may not be reformed until the overall socio-cultural discourses are improved. “Whether PTI government is,” points out Ms. Gilani, “sincere in reforming the Police culture is a questionable question itself, because the Police is not a department working in isolation, it is part of the greater political and state structure where the evil practices have existed, lingered and now seem to have become an inevitable part of the political system”. She adds “unless the socio-political mindset doesn’t start changing one cannot expect Police to become an ideal department on its own, as it is part of the whole”.

While commenting on the capacity of the police department she laments that no reform packages have ever been implemented in its true spirit. She maintains that “the capacity building of Police has been recognized by previous governments and was placed on list of their agenda, the National Action Plan, National Internal Security Policy, NACTA act have included the crucial and significant role of Police department in country’s fight against violent extremism, however, only a practical implementation stays missing.

Police is at the center in the achievement of good governance practices, with the promulgation of Police Order 2002, Police was expected to move out of its decades-old “thana culture” which has long paved way for causing distrust and dislike between the public and Police. Though the Police department in Pakistan has laid several lives in the line of duty, their sacrifices remain overshadowed by acts of utter inhumanity and immorality with the conduct of extrajudicial killings and torture on the pretext of political orders or otherwise”.

Read more: Check Posts to be Man Free & Run by Technology: IG Punjab

Ms. Gilani further believes that one more important “aspect which deserves to be taken into consideration is the selection and training criteria, which needs to be revisited for the personnel falling in the lower hierarchy of the police department as it is those Police individuals who are expected to make most interactions with public and as witnessed it is them who cause most dishonor to this crucial state institution”.

As a matter of fact, the PTI promised before coming into power to reform the police and make it a model institution. But after assuming the offices, the party has failed to introduce any change which might have impacted the performance of the police across the province. It has disappointed many of PTI’s supporters who were expecting to live in Naya Pakistan.

Abdul Sattar, columnist, and journalist, recently noted that “Let us begin with the independence of the police department and the current ruling elite’s claim to put an end to political influence. Soon after the government came into power, the DPO of Pakpattan was transferred – some say for merely doing his duty – something that shocked many admirers of Khan. The ex-IG of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Nasir Durrani, who was tasked to carry out reforms in the Punjab police, resigned after what critics said was interference by politicians. This further fueled suspicions about the claims made by the new government, and later developments seemed to have vindicated them.

Read more: Police Reforms: Issues, Effects and a Way Forward

The Islamabad police came under tremendous pressure when reportedly people belonging to federal minister Azam Swati’s side beat up a poor family close to the minister’s farmhouse. Interestingly the minister admitted having encroached upon a few canals of CDA land.”

Sources claim that the project of de-politicization of police in Punjab became even difficult because of the attitude of the local leadership who believes without accommodative police in the province, it is not possible to ensure the functioning of the government. In initial meetings with members of the provincial assembly, the Prime Minister was also informed that Punjab has different political dynamics and cultural background as compared to KP.

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