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Punjab, Sindh continue to evade police reform


Abdul Rahman Malik |

The police remain one department that is oft-criticised by almost every segment of our society. A lot is desired of the Punjab and the Sindh police departments in particular, since they have over the years earned a reputation of being less than friendly, and being unprofessional in their interactions with the general public. The idea of community-friendly policing exists but only in books. Implementation of laws and police behaviour leaves a lot to be desired.

Instead of ameliorating the plight of the masses, the police reportedly add to the woes of the general public by demanding bribes, silencing poor victims through harassment, staging fake encounters, not registering genuine FIRs, and by registering fake usually politically-motivated complaints.

In spite of all the lofty promises, there have been no reforms in the police departments across Pakistan except for some positive changes that have taken place in the last few years in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

These police officers get postings with their help in their respective districts regardless of their efficiency to deal with the nature of the crime that prevails in that particular area.

The Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa has to a degree managed to revamp the traditional “thana (police station) culture” by converting the stations into community legal consultancy and support centres. The province police department has also said to have made significant progress to stop the practice of staffers demanding bribes from poor complainants. The situation has not changed much in the provinces of Sindh and Punjab.

The head munshis mostly manage the affairs at various police stations and are popularly known as the earning machines for the SHOs. They negotiate all the underhand deals and get bribes from both the accused as well as the complainants.

They even charge complainants for the moving of vehicles after registration of a case and demand fuel charges along with (kharchi) pocket money as if they have done something more than what their duty is.

Read more: Police reforms for speedy justice: CJP orders immediate implementation

Moreover, there is also the issue of lack of proper training and grooming of the police especially for psychological disorders that accompany incidents such as Model Town Lahore and Sahiwal shooting. At times there are incidents where the police have been responsible for criminal negligence. For instance, in Irshad Ranjhani Case, a UC Nazim Raheem Shah shot a political worker to death in the presence of a senior police officer in broad daylight.

The apathetic attitude of the police force became all the more evident when they took the dying man, Irshad Ranjhani to a police station for investigation, instead of taking him to a hospital for treatment, which was his constitutional right as a citizen of Pakistan.

It is ironic that the poor labourer was not provided with necessary first aid when the sentenced criminals such as former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, and Dr. Asim are provided same at their prison cells.

The interest mafia from the automobile industry even resorts to occupying the houses of persons who avail any new or used bike or car on installments for four to six months.

As in Irshad Ranjhani case, these trigger-happy cops somehow think that they have the licence to kill. Such incidents of extrajudicial killings have further widened the distance between the police and the citizens. This has also resulted in an erosion of public trust on the police for their security. Some argue that in instances the police have become a party with the criminal elements and have been involved in political victimization.

There are several reported cases across Pakistan where so-called Chaudhrys, Sardars, and other feudal lords and interest mafias have humiliated poor families due to their refusal to follow their directions. Some have been reported subjected to physical torture inside police stations on the directions of these influential individuals.

The police are usually reluctant to register a case against any influential Sardar, feudal lord or member of the interest mafia unless and until a high-level official from the police or court takes Suo Motu notice of such an injustice, criminal negligence or cruelty with the poor.

Read more: Police Service-Challenges and Reforms

Those who fall victim to act of violence by the police, take them as dreadful creatures since these barbaric police personnel do not fit in the definition of humanity owing to their inhuman behaviour or psychological disorders. Such police officials at times disgrace respectable citizens with insulting and unethical behaviour. However, it will be unjust to blame only the lower level cops for such malpractices.

The fact of the matter is that even officers at AIG, DIG, and SSP level play in the hands of the feudal lords and politicians i.e. the MNAs and the MPAs. These police officers get postings with their help in their respective districts regardless of their efficiency to deal with the nature of the crime that prevails in that particular area.

Thus, despite public anger and protests against kidnappings for ransom, robbers, street crime, brutal murders and tribal clashes, the failure of the police officers is denied or defended until a particular MNA and MPA accord approval to transfer of the said officer.

The massive human rights violations by the police are against Article 14(2) of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan that prohibits torture for the purposes of extracting evidence.

It means, even IGs are unable to make transfers and postings of SSPs and DIGs without the consent of these MNAs and MPAs. The depoliticisation of the police is a must to ensure professionalism in the department.

The katcha areas of the Punjab and Sindh are said to be the criminal safe havens since the origin of every crime can be traced to these areas but due to the patronage of feudal lords and connections between the police and the criminals, the raids conducted by the police in association with the Rangers have failed in the past.

According to reports, in the past, the IG Sindh and other officers had issued a report in which names of various police officers were mentioned who had links with criminals. Those were either dismissed from service or suspended but later their services were restored on political interference.

Read more: New Baluchistan CM to reform police force

Furthermore, the police are frequently involved in land grabbing, drug peddling, gambling and supporting interest mafia that is looting the nation with both hands. The interest mafia from the automobile industry even resorts to occupying the houses of persons who avail any new or used bike or car on installments for four to six months.

These auto dealer mafia charges over 30 to 40 percent interest per month and the rate gets double when the person fails to pay the amount on time. Then, the interest rate converts into daily interest compelling the poor persons to sell their properties in peanuts to these members of auto dealer mafia.

These mafias are backed by the police who lodge FIRs on the complaints of these mafia members to harass the people and recover the interest amounts and take their recovery shares. Sometimes, these mafias even forcibly kidnap a person, illegally occupy their houses and release the abductees when they get full repayments from their families.

The monitoring officer from law department must be posted at tehsil level so that criminal activities of the police may be monitored and reported to higher authorities for possible legal actions.

Thanks to courts, they provide some relief to these affected people against life threats and harassment and fix easy installments of principal amount only. The interest is waived off so that they may get rid of mental stress and social degradation. The police act like munshies (accountants) for these mafias since they themselves avail their services and provide security to them.

That is why these interest mafias have set up their shops in the vicinity of police stations and SSP offices so that they may run their illegal interest-based business under the direct patronage and support of the police.

Fortunately, recent legislation against the interest mafia suggests rigorous punishments and fines for those who run interest-based businesses. But, its application is still questionable since the same police will execute complaints making it hard for people to get justice. The current police structure is very weak because it is heavily politicised.

Read more: Politicized police in Sindh and Punjab: Should PTI be blamed?

In such situation, the recent decision of the National Judicial Policy Making Committee (NJPMC) to hand over the petitions under sections 22A and 22B of the CrPC to the superintendent of police (SP) (complaints) has been heavily criticised by the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) and all the provincial and district bar councils since they fear that the police may not serve the purpose and those affectees will not expect any relief.

The legal fraternity is protesting against the decision of the NJPMC and demands its restoration to original form so that people may get quick relief. Everybody knows that the poor people already have a negative impression of the police, and they will not get relief as per their constitutional right from an SP the way they can get through a justice of the peace.

There are also reports of the police not following any code of ethics and their adverse communication and misbehaviour with women. They also do not know how to deal with the families of the criminals. I have seen many cases in which poor women were dragged to the police stations by male police personnel that present a very grim picture.

The KP police were reformed a lot but such reforms should be done at the national level since the provincial police chiefs are appointed by the federal government.

It only happens in Pakistan, where the old father, old mother, brothers, sisters and even relatives bear the brunt of criminal practices of a single black sheep in the family. How far it is justified that an innocent family member should be harassed for the offences of another family member and the entire family goes through trauma and distress.

The draconian practice of police torture often acts against the criminal law procedure and leaves the victims at the mercy of these people. It is also disappointing that the common people cannot complain against the police personnel or officer to a higher authority since they turn a deaf ear towards such complaints.

The victims usually have no choice but to knock at the doors of court to lodge their complaint against the police highhandedness, torture and harassment since the courts are the only option for relief. The massive human rights violations by the police are against Article 14(2) of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan that prohibits torture for the purposes of extracting evidence.

Read more: “Police should be strong and independent force,” says top Pakistani judge

There is no precedence that the capital punishment was awarded to any police personnel for torture or harassment while the Article 156 (d) of Police Order, 2002 suggests the penalty against a police official who inflicts torture against any person but there is no precedence of its application in case of torture.

Police torture will go unabated until we legislate for such malpractices. We also need to educate the people regarding the basic rights through academia so that they must be aware of their constitutional rights as safeguarded by the state.

There is a grave need for some administrative reforms that may prevent such cases. The govt should transform the police stations into legal consultancy centres by appointing legal experts and modernizing the outlook of police stations so that people’s fear against the “thana culture” may be changed so that citizens and police liaison may be enhanced and the victims must get the relief and timely help in a friendly manner.

The police officers having links with various interest mafias, drug peddlers, criminals, and robbers must be dismissed from service since these criminal personnel always play the role of abettor in crime.

Furthermore, the number of women police stations should be increased so that women must be confident to communicate with female staff and discuss their issues openly. The house raids must be conducted by women police such as house search etc in cases necessary. Otherwise, entry of male policemen in the house must be banned and they should be punished for committing such a crime.

The police officers having links with various interest mafias, drug peddlers, criminals, and robbers must be dismissed from service since these criminal personnel always play the role of abettor in crime. The police rules and police order requires overhauling and strict monitoring system should be deployed on each police station.

The monitoring officer from law department must be posted at tehsil level so that criminal activities of the police may be monitored and reported to higher authorities for possible legal actions. The installation of CCTV cameras at every police station will restrain police from inflicting torture or taking bribes.

Read more: The Punjab Police: Law enforcers or blackmailers?

The KP police were reformed a lot but such reforms should be done at the national level since the provincial police chiefs are appointed by the federal government. A national policy on police reforms will serve the interests of all provinces and the federation.

Abdul Rahman Malik is a Policy Researcher, Governance Specialist and Development Sector Professional having worked for Asian Development Bank and other National and International Development Organizations. The views expressed in this article are author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space. 

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