The Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) was established under the Presidential Order No. 18 of 1980, and its administration was vested in the Islamabad Capital Territory Administration (ICTA). The ICTA exercises its powers through the office of the Chief Commissioner (CC) who uses these powers on the analogy of the provincial governments. As a concomitant arrangement, the criminal justice system was to be established in Islamabad.
Successive governments tried to do that by contributing to this cause. There is, however, a need to map the state of evolving criminal justice system arrangements in the ICT, which will help in informing the citizenry about the state of affairs and will provide a point of departure for future policymaking on the subject. The mapping is adumbrated in a thematic manner by addressing different components of the criminal justice system:
The Islamabad Capital Territory Police (ICTP) was established in 1981. It works under the Police Act, 1861 that imports all the traditional colonial trappings insofar as the governance of police organizations is concerned. To remedy the colonial control of the archaic legislation, the Police Order, 2002 was enacted all over Pakistan in 2002; the progressive Police Order, 2002 was, however, not made applicable to the ICT through a contingent legislative caveat introduced through Article 1(3) of the Police Order that required its application to the ICT on the date of application of local government system.
Since then, the Police Act, 1861 continues to apply. In the meanwhile, since 2015, lawyers and civil society organizations approached the Islamabad High Court (IHC) pleading application of Police Order, 2002 to the ICT. The matter remains sub-judice. Simultaneously, the government moved a draft ICT Police Act, 2021, which is under consideration. These facts must be juxtaposed with the Police Reforms Committee Report of 2019 (the PRC Report) that was prepared as a law reform measure under the institutional arrangement of the Law and Justice Commission of Pakistan that is headed by the Chief Justice, Supreme Court of Pakistan.
The PRC Report argued on the touchstone of articles 142, 143 and 240 of the Constitution that there should be single national police law as it is a subset of criminal law and is dictated by the jurisprudence of legislative concurrence and is to be treated as an occupied legislative field. Notwithstanding the constitutionality dimension, police law must be progressive in nature catering to urban and IT-based policing requirements that require elastic organizational structures to enable the police leadership to better protect life and property of the public at large.
Since 2006, in order to move towards specialized prosecution services in the country, the Provinces introduced their respective laws for establishing prosecution service structures. In the ICT, the prosecution was part of the police and the incumbent government has created over a dozen posts for the prosecutors.
Now, through new legislative reforms that got the nod of the cabinet in January 2022, a draft prosecution law for the ICT has been prepared. With this new legislation, it is hoped that the representation of specialist prosecutors in criminal courts will increase. This must be backed by robust police prosecution cooperation in order to synergize efforts of the state to bring offenders to justice.
Adjudication of criminal cases depends upon the availability of judges. For this, under the leadership of the Chief Justice, IHC, court administration and case management systems have been improved. The judges are being trained better and their work is being monitored closely.
Two sessions courts (West and East) have been established and each district division has been properly replenished through an adequate number of judges. The special complex for the IHC is almost ready and the district courts are likely to occupy the court complex with ample paraphernalia for lawyers and allied staff.
The ICT was dependent for a long on the Adiala District Jail of the adjacent district of Rawalpindi. This is likely to change soon as the prison complex of the ICT is almost ready. The prison staff with command structure will be posted once the prison complex becomes functional.
Parole, probation and correctional services for rehabilitation and alternate penal strategies are areas that would need more focus once the prison complex is functional. There is a trend to minimize the prison population world over and Pakistan must follow it as a standard. The corrections system must be integrated at every stage of the criminal justice system like at pre-trial stages of bail and processes and must not be deferred at the lowest end of the criminal justice system.
Looking for the way forward
National capitals symbolize national priorities. Global metrics on the rule of law do not favor Pakistan in terms of rankings. Pakistan can record a high impact by reforming the criminal justice system in the ICT as it will not only contribute to enhancing the image of the country globally but will also raise its standing as a progressive country that accords priorities to fundamental freedoms that define modern polity.
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It is heartening to note that the newly proposed law reforms by the federal government show focus on legislative reforms for the ICT by committing to enact new laws for prosecution, safe city authority and the forensic science agency along with addressing legislative gaps in general criminal law and procedure. These laws together with dedicated legislation on the protection of rights of children and women can help Pakistan posit an inclusive narrative about its state and society.
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.