In pure rush of blood and compelling parochial interests, Balochistan Government has succumbed to machinations of a service group in reviving the 19th century Police Act of 1861 by calling it the Balochistan Police Act of 2011. This is like putting old wine in a new bottle.
The hasty and patently illegal exercise was initiated by the bureaucracy and the recommendations of the Inspector General Police were totally ignored. The cabinet did not discuss the proposed bill which was rushed to the Provincial Assembly for adopting it as law in utter disregard of prevalent laws of the land. In bizarre haste, words like “swine” used by the British have not been omitted.
The executive has blatantly undermined the judiciary by reviving the office of District Magistrate and the institution of the executive magistracy. The Criminal Procedure Code 1898, as amended, recognizes judicial magistrates only. All the judicial functions of erstwhile District Magistrate were transferred to the District Sessions Judge. The regulatory functions were devolved to the elected Nazim in 2001.
Policing functions were transferred to the Provincial Police Officer under the Police Law of 2002. Without waiting for amendments in the Criminal Procedure Code by the Federal Government and the Parliament, Balochistan Government has put cart before the horse by creating executive magistracy before amending criminal procedure code. The bureaucrats want to control the police by giving impression to some gullible rulers that the elected representatives would achieve political control over the police through executive magistracy.
The saga of poor governance in Balochistan is not new. Bureaucrats miss Sandeman style of policing of the 19th century rule of British Raj. That is when tribal society was controlled through a handful of chieftains. Baloch Sardars and Pashtun tribal elders owed their allegiance to the British masters who compensated them by allowing them to raise Levies from their tribe. The meagre salaries of such rag-tag militias were pocketed by the Sardars. The tribal chiefs and the administrators developed a nexus to maintain order. The military was called to quell revolts while Levies policed a primitive society on the principle of collective responsibility to pay for crimes or breach of law and order. This system was allowed to continue after independence in order to appease the Sardars at the expense of the State.
General Ayub introduced parallel jirga laws by replacing Criminal Procedure Code 1898 with a Special Ordinance of 1968 in 95 per cent area of Balochistan that was administered by the Deputy Commissioners and the Levies. Those were the days when executive magistracy was ruling the roost.
One Unit was disbanded in 1970 and when Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto became Prime Minister, he abolished the Sardari System in Balochistan in 1972. He gave a mighty blow to the Sardars but failed to repeal draconian special law of 1968 whereby the bureaucrats became all powerful in administering justice without due process. Only 5 per cent of area belonging to major towns in the province called A Areas had regular police where the judiciary carried out trials under Criminal Procedure Code of 1898 and lawyers were allowed to represent the accused. Remaining vast land lacked due process and lawyers were not allowed to disturb unfettered powers of the tribal chiefs who carried out arbitrary trials under the tutelage of the District Magistrates.
An attempt was made in early 1980s to expand the jurisdiction of the police to B Areas controlled by the Levies. District SP Jhat Pat (now Naseerabad) Shoaib Suddle added police writ to the Pat Feeder Canal area while Quetta Police under my command expanded jurisdiction in 1984 towards Kuchlak on Quetta-Pishin road. There was resistance by the vested interests and further expansion of police jurisdiction was stalled. However, in the early 1990s, the High Court of Balochistan struck down the tribal procedural special law of 1968 and the Supreme Court upheld the decision of the High Court when the then government went in appeal. Criminal Procedure Code was subsequently applicable to the entire province and judicial magistrates were appointed all over Balochistan to conduct trials. This was yet another blow to the might of the Sardars who were earlier symbolically hurt by Bhutto with the abolition of Sardari System.
In early 21st century the Federal Government decided to abolish levies system in a five years Rs5 billion programme whereby police jurisdiction was to extend to the entire province. This was a direct clash between the State and the Sardar. Police meant the state while levies were in the pocket of the chiefs who got it administered through the Home Secretary. During the tenure of Dr Shoaib Suddle as IG Balochistan from 2001 to 2004, three districts of Quetta, Naseerabad and Lasbella were converted to police jurisdiction. Credit goes to the then Prime Minister Zafarullah Jamali and Chief Minister Jam Muhammad Yousaf who offered their own constituencies Naseerabad and Lasbella to do away with the levies system. Next Inspector General Police Chaudhry Yaqub during his tenure of two and a half years was able to add ten more districts to police jurisdiction.
I took over as the 18th IG Balochistan since creation of the province in 1970. I was also the first and only Baloch IG ever to be posted there. On assuming charge in early January 2007 I made a presentation to the cabinet to extend police jurisdiction first on the main highways and roads connecting the province with Sindh, Punjab and NWFP (now Khyber Pakhtunkhwa). Chief Secretary KB Rind fully supported me.
Levies had failed to keep the roads safe from miscreants and marauders. Highway Police was entrusted with responsibility to keep travelers safe. Out of 30 districts in the province, 13 were administered by the police while 17 districts and a vast area still had the control of the Levies under the Home Department.
The levies were offered better salaries to become part of regular police after getting professional training. Meetings were held with representatives of the Levies and they were convinced that state protected them better than the sardars. After taking them fully on board and with approval and backing of the cabinet, Chief Secretary and I made sure that the remaining 17 districts stand converted to police jurisdiction as soon as possible. Two districts were added to police every month and by 14th August 2007, entire province stood converted to police jurisdiction. Police means due process, rule of law and upholding the writ of the state while Levies meant rule of the Sardar through bureaucracy. I thought that was the best gift we could give to the people of Balochistan on Pakistan’s Independence Day.
Present PPP-led Government of Balochistan took no time to reverse the process that was started by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto in early 1970s with abolition of the sardari system. Tribal interests, in my view, have the primacy now. Bureaucracy, led by a service group, in a calculated manner, is bent upon regaining their past glory.
They do not realize that black-coat revolution, started in March 2007 for rule law and independence of judiciary, has created an environment where the executive cannot trespass the legal domain of the judiciary. By reintroducing the office of district magistrate and the institution of the executive magistracy through re-enacting the Police Act of 1861, Sindh and Balochistan Governments are in clear violation of the Constitution which jealously guards the sacrosanct principle of separation of the judiciary from the executive. I am sure that independent judiciary will take a note of these transgressions of law and uphold rule of law rather than law of the rulers.
The writer is a retired police officer, a former IG of Balochistan Police and UNODC Advisor on Rule of Law and Criminal Justice