In a much-awaited development, the government has given a go-ahead to the home departments to ‘take over control of the police’ in Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and Islamabad. The PTI’s government was being criticized by all and sundry for its failure to reform the police, particularly in Punjab. Prior to election to office, Prime Minister Imran Khan had promised to radically change the system of policing in Punjab where citizens have to face undue challenges on a daily basis.
An intellectually disabled person in Pakistan was allegedly tortured to death in police custody.
Rights groups are now demanding reforms in the police culture, but it would be a difficult task. https://t.co/xbDaF4GuA1
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According to sources, Prime Minister Imran Khan had formed a committee headed by the interior secretary to draft a proposal of police reforms. The chief secretaries and provincial police officers of Punjab and KP besides other federal government officers were on the committee. They finally presented the draft and the PM gave the approval to get it implemented.
In the latest development, Deputy Commissioners (DCs) have been given more powers to regulate and oversee the work of the police. Under the new system, the major functions of the police would be performed by the DCs who have been given judicial powers of 22A and 22B besides authority of inspections of police stations that earlier were sole discretion of the police.
“A new parallel police force will be raised that shall be under the control of the DCs of the two provinces and Islamabad. The police officers shall be answerable to the DCs in crime control, law & order and other public complaints,” say documents.
Police had become the biggest challenge for the incumbent government after several cases of misconduct and torture went viral on social media.
The federal government, he said, after seeking approval from the PM directed the provincial authorities to implement the plan in letter and spirit.
Professor G-M Pitafi believes that this is a significant change and likely to change the course of policing in Pakistan. “I am confident that the current government shall leave no stone unturned to de-politicize the police since it was the biggest victim of this system before coming into power,” he said.
According to the documents, the police would function under the DCs while the police officers posted for field assignments would have to get a certification of ability before carrying out inspections of the police stations. The police officers include regional police officers, district police officers, and city police officers besides those appointed in the provincial capitals.
The documents further say the police complaint authority shall have legal, police and administrative expertise to look into cases of police misconduct. “It shall be an autonomous body with the powers to undertake investigations/inquire directly in case of death and serious injury due to police action. For the purpose, it has been recommended that the Police Order/act shall be amended accordingly besides proposing the federal government to bring a law separately.”
The provincial police complaint authority shall be established at the provincial level with a regional presence.
The autonomy given to police complaint authority is likely to be effective in regaining lost public confidence. The authority will have the power to independently look into cases of violence and custodial killing to draw independent conclusions.
Internal Accountability: A response to Public Demand
Police had become the biggest challenge for the incumbent government after several cases of misconduct and torture went viral on social media. Citizens demanded immediate reforms and drastic changes in police department in order to de-politicize it and make it more effective.
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To address the public demands, under the new system, all personnel posted in the internal inspection units must be certified government and provincial police officers (PPO) to lay down the framework of certification in consultation with all stakeholders. The internal accountability branch will be placed under Additional IG (IGP for compliance).
It will ensure professionalism as well as decency in the behavior of the officers dealing with the public.
External Accountability Mechanism
According to the said document, the Public Safety Commissions will be abolished and independent external inspectorates established with the following mandate:
The inspectorates must be established by law (Search Committees). These should comprise a director-general and up to seven chief inspectors. At least one chief inspector must be a retired police officer, a prosecutor, a lawyer, a civil servant and an auditor with significant experience; one chief inspector may be a layperson.
The yearly inspection schedule will be finalized in consultation with PPO and notified by the Inspectorate.
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Prior to this document, the problem was that the police officers were part of the accountability force which did not allow them to challenge the dynamics of their mother institution. The proposed document, however, empowers other segments of society to oversee the performance of the police.