Ikram Sehgal |
The police law made in 1861 to serve the purpose of a colonial ruler cannot fit the conditions of the 21st century with a booming population, successive technical revolutions and other fundamental developments that have changed the society but not the central task of the state – to provide security. Under this outdated law, conditions in the cities and rural areas of Sindh deteriorated to such an extent that the life of the people was endangered, private and communal property was lost due to criminal gangs and white collar crimes.
Karachi became the 6th most dangerous city in the world. In 2002 Gen. Musharraf’s government initiated police reforms by introducing a new police law. Under the 1861 law police powers rested with the Deputy Commissioner who united the powers of policing, justice and administration in one hand, the new law in 2002 under the ‘devolution of power’ initiative separated the police from the administrative and judicial powers but put it in the hands of the politicians, the power of postings and transfers in the hands of the ruling government.
The SC entitled the Sindh Assembly to make new laws conforming with the modern needs keeping in view the observations made in the impugned judgment.
Unfortunately, Police Order 2002 didn’t work too well. Whether it was functioning under the Act 1861 or the Order 2002 the police in Sindh became highly politicized and a tool in the hands of the PPP (and for some time with MQM in Karachi). The ruling political parties recruited their political workers and relatives and politically connected persons from Constable to Deputy Superintendent of Police.
The feudal lords in different districts managed to handpick heads of district police and ruled their fiefdoms by suppressing all types of dissent and opposition. With the police itself a partner in crime they plundered resources like state land, forests and other natural resources in the process. In 2017 the Sindh High Court (Sindh HC) responded to civil society petition in protest against the govt’s removal of IGP Sindh by ruling that “there must be the autonomy of command and independence of operation in the police force.
The police hierarchy, acting through the IGP must have control over its own affairs especially insofar as postings and transfers are concerned (but certainly not limited to that) and free from outside interference”. The judgement stipulated that within 30 days rules should be drafted to regulate how the IGP would handle all postings and transfers including the terms to be served at a post.
According to the rules laid down by the SC in the Anita Turabi case, i.e. Civil servants owe their first and foremost allegiance to the law and the Constitution, they are not bound to obey orders from superiors which are illegal or are not in accordance with accepted practices and rule-based norms,” said the judgment authored by Justice Jawwad S. Khwaja in 2012. The Sindh govt’s appeal was dismissed by the Supreme Court (SC) in March 2018.
The ruling political parties recruited their political workers and relatives and politically connected persons from Constable to Deputy Superintendent of Police.
However, the SC entitled the Sindh Assembly to make new laws conforming with the modern needs keeping in view the observations made in the impugned judgment. The IGP Sindh drafted the rules and submitted them to the Sindh govt for notification. With their private interests endangered the politicians did what politicians can do best: they delayed this for the last 18 months by putting it before a Committee.
The Committee recently proposed a new bill to be approved by the Sindh Assembly repealing the existing Police Act 1861 and reviving the Police Order 2002 to bring the police “within the ambit of accountability and under proper supervision” meaning control pf politicians. By deliberately disregarding the Sindh HC judgement, they are trying to sideline the rules drafted by the IGP stalled in the government offices for more than a year. This amounts to contempt of the court.
The 2017 judgement ruled that “till such time as the rules are framed and approved in terms as stated above, the power of transfers and postings in the police force, at all levels and including that of PSP officers, shall be exercised only by the IG, and any orders issued by him in this regard shall be self-executing.” With the de-politisation of the Sindh police force the first positive results of the court-ordered autonomy of the Sindh police are visible.
Within 18 months Karachi dropped from 6th most dangerous city to 70th in global ranking, the murder rate in Sindh declining by 70% when compared to 2013. The discipline of the police force and its internal accountability improved considerably when the officers started looking up to their professional commanders rather than political mentors. The Chinese Consulate General attack notwithstanding no major incident of terrorism has taken place in the entire province; Muharram processions to PSL matches all were handled professionally and peacefully.
The judgement stipulated that within 30 days rules should be drafted to regulate how the IGP would handle all postings and transfers including the terms to be served at a post.
The highways have become safe and kidnappings brought under control. Karachi has become a business-friendly with respect to security. Re-introducing political executive overview will be a terrible mistake which the people of the province (and its economy) cannot afford. For the Police Order 2002 to be revived, those articles in contradiction with the Sindh HC and SC judgment must be amended. The revival must be compatible with the spirit of the superior court’s rulings.
The govt must notify transfer and posting direct rules submitted by the IGP as ordered by the Sindh High Court. An impartial, professional and depoliticized police service requires disciplined organization and unity of command as crucial for its efficient working. The political elite have been regarding Sindh police as their private army. Using the police for criminal purposes was developed into an art form during former President Asif Zardari’s tenure.
The long struggle by civil society and much-awaited intervention of the superior courts to reform police has brought it to its present state. If vested interest succeeds in getting control again and through a manipulated legislation aimed at evading the judgments of the superior courts it will be a bad omen for all the citizens and their quest for the rule of law in the province. When criminals function in the name of justice, justice becomes a crime.
Ikram Sehgal, author of “Escape from Oblivion”, is Pakistani defence analyst and security expert. He is a regular contributor of articles in newspapers that include: The News and the Urdu daily Jang. The article was first published in Express Tribune and has been republished with the author’s permission. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.