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September 12, 2016

The ‘relative’ police


September 12, 2016

‘Relative’ police is a police force that works for relatives only. One is entitled to the protection of the ‘relative police’ if one is related in any way to a senior police official. In special cases this facility may also be extended to friends or those recommended by important political figures.

The ‘relative’ police are a ‘relatively’ secret arm of the Sindh Police. There are no records or documented evidence to trace where, when and who all receive services from this elite unit.

The world would have never known about the existence of ‘relative’ police, had it not been for the sporadic incidents of ‘relative’ police killing or being killed by relatives. One such incident in May 2014 startled the residents of Karachi. A police SSP serving in interior Sindh had appointed five members of the ‘relative’ police to guard his relatives living in DHA Karachi. Consistent with its mandate, the ‘relative’ police killed a young lad, a friend of the SSP’s son, in an armed scuffle that took place between the two. In the ensuing battle, one member of the ‘relative’ police also embraced ‘shahadat’ – for laying down his life in the line of duty.

One would have expected this event to be an eye-opener. However, there were no lessons learnt by the police. There were no orders to dismantle the secret ‘relative’ police. The SSP continued to perform his duties and the number of his Facebook friends multiplied many times. The ‘relative’ police continued to operate as if nothing ever happened.

On September 7, 2016, two police constables belonging to the ‘relative’ police were shot dead in the Defence Housing Authority as they were guarding the residence of a close relative of a senior police officer. A somewhat more serious notice was taken this time.

The IG police declared that no officer had the authority to provide ‘relative’ police guards to any ‘unauthorised’ private person on personal basis. He correctly pointed out that the police constables were not meant to be private guards. Despite the huge window kept open for ‘authorised’ exceptions, there are signs that a small step may have been taken to eliminate the curse of the ‘relative’ police.

The ‘relative’ police primarily exist to support and protect the ruling elite of Pakistan. Thousands of these fine policemen and their vehicles are deployed to protect a few hundred people in every town. Needless to say, all expenses of ‘relative’ police are paid from the public exchequer. There are scores of homes in every upscale locality where the ‘relative’ police can be seen diligently rendering its services, encroaching on public land, pitching tents, positioning vehicles and placing containers to safeguard the rich and the powerful.

A number of systemic organisational breakdowns need to be addressed to seek a long term solution to this deadly duality in the police system. A police report submitted to the Supreme Court in 2014 states that Karachi has a posted strength of 25,279 policemen. Surprisingly 31.4 percent or 7,956 personnel are deployed for security duties with VIPs and other ‘related’ individuals. Some carry the façade of official ‘authorisation’ while others do so brazenly. The line between the two is imperceptibly thin.

10 Downing Street, the residence of the British prime minister is guarded by two policemen. Its front door has no keyhole on the outside. The Sindh chief minister’s house is guarded by 204 policemen. The constitution of Pakistan provides for equal protection of law for all citizens of the state. So why is 31 percent of the entire police force along with 155 mobile vans of Sindh Police engaged in protecting a few hundred individuals.

It is a matter of both introspection as well as shame for a state to ‘authorise’ or privately allow policemen to be deployed like personal servants at the residences of VIPs, favourites and relatives. The Sindh police ought to take firm action to put an immediate and permanent end to all ‘relative’ police deployments. Is the Sindh police willing to take this small steps towards its own reform and restructuring?

The writer is a management systems consultant and a freelance writer on social issues.

Email: [email protected]

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