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September 20, 2018

Reforms and the police force

Opinion

September 20, 2018

The PTI’s biggest achievement was the improvement made in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa police under the KP Police Act, 2017. Imran Khan has attributed this success to former PPO Nasir Khan Durrani, who had his full backing.

According to news reports, Durrani introduced ruthless in-house accountability by dismissing almost 800 policemen and awarding punishments to over 6,000 staffers. He established police assistance lines in all districts and setup six specialised training schools. The model reporting rooms and the female desks helped to introduce public-friendly policing at the police station level. The PTI-led provincial government seems to have delivered by focusing on implementation and good governance. However, an in-depth study is needed to assess the ground reality.

Historically, a personality-driven agenda doesn’t last and needs a strong legal, political, financial, administrative, technical and accountability framework to be sustainable. A review of the KP Police Act 2017 shows that it is the same National Reconstruction Bureau (NRB) system without any major changes. The PTI now plans to replicate the KP model throughout Pakistan. It is, therefore, an opportune time to review the KP Police Act and the lessons learnt to resolve the structural and institutional issues.

After the 18th Amendment KP in 2017 was able to repeal the federal Police Order 2002. The appointment of the PPO was a sensitive issue in 2002 as he was a federal employee and could be recalled at any time. This issue still remains. The recruitment of ASP under the KP law is also at the federal level. Such service matters impinge on provincial autonomy.

The intent of the KP Police Act is to grant operational, financial and administrative autonomy to the police for improving services and reducing police excesses. To meet this objective, the police officers in 2002 proposed a separate police department at the provincial level headed by a police officer. The bureaucracy did not agree. There was a well-directed campaign against the Police Order 2002, claiming that the police was ‘be lagaam’, (ie, has no control over itself).

Under the KP Rules of Business, the police remains under the home secretary. This reporting relationship is adversarial and fragile. The NRB side-tracked this issue by including in the police order that overall superintendence shall vest in the provincial government and shall be exercised in such a manner to ensure that the police shall perform its duties efficiently and strictly in accordance with the law. However, a step forward was that PPO was granted powers of an ex-officio secretary. An option could be to create a police department headed by a non-police officer.

The NRB separated investigation from prosecution and other police work. It came under much criticism that inefficiency and corruption had doubled by the separation. The KP Police Act has continued with the same separation by making a legal affairs branch at the provincial level with offices at the district level and a specialist cadre. There is a duality of control over the investigation officer at the district level.

The direct link is with the legal branch. At the same time, the investigation staff is also answerable to the head of the district police (DPO). It isn’t clear whether there will be any separate investigation staff at the police station level? The whole concept of the separation of investigation needs to be made practical and efficient. At present, it is a bureaucratic tangle.

The NRB did away with the district commissioner (DC) system and made the DPO answerable to the district nazim. However, this relationship did not work. The KP Act has delinked the police from local elected representatives and the DPO is now solely responsible for maintaining law and order.

The reporting relationship among the DPO, nazim and the DC has been left vague as a coordination function only. Earlier, DCs were responsible and controlled the police. Should the DC, executive magistrates, or civilians be the interface between the police and the public? Should there be a role for local elected representatives?

The institutions under the KP Police Act need to be revisited. The number of women in the public safety commissions should be increased to four as one woman member cannot be effective. Overall, the KP Police Act has no enabling sections for encouraging women’s participation in the police force; the formation of women’s police station; providing women staff in police stations; and adopting anti-harassment measures.

By law, one member of the PPSC is to sit in as an observer in centralised purchases of the police. It is a purely procurement matter and has no link with investigating police excesses. The functions of the Regional Police Complaints Authority should be merged with PSCs to reduce bureaucracy and costs. The Dispute Resolution Council needs elaboration. The Police Policy Board, with eight police officers as members, has been included in the KP act to formulate service delivery strategies. It is toothless as PPO doesn’t need to consult it.

The concept of public liaison councils hasn’t been well-thought-out. It is not mandatory for the SHO to hold meetings with the council. The experience in Pakistan shows that such bodies become a nuisance rather than improve matters.

The section on their powers needs to be deleted as they are not implementable. The concept of a village police has been mentioned but not elaborated in the legislation. The institutions will only work if they are adequately resourced.

Regarding human resources, the recruitment of constables is done on the basis of the district of domicile while they can be transferred to other districts. The KP government may, on the recommendations of the KP Public Service Commission, appoint experts to assist the PPO. This is cumbersome. Although the term of police officers is two years, the same act negates this protection by providing a loophole for premature transfer.

To safeguard the tenure, the NRB, with great difficulty, was able to get the bureaucracy to agree to inserting the definition “exigency of service”, which requires reasons for premature transfers to be recorded in writing. The police law hasn’t been able to protect the premature transfer of the Pakpattan DPO.

The SHO is a grade-16 officer. This critical post should be upgraded to grade-17 in senior

ranks if the thana culture is to be changed.

At present, even 16 years after the enactment of the Police Order 2002, the Police Rules made under the Police Act 1861 are still in force. The NRB only was only able to enact the Police Order 2002 through a top-down approach as the bureaucracy and elected representatives were against giving autonomy to the police and establishing safety commissions. As a result, implementation suffered. KP’s experience shows that to bring any form of change the key prerequisite is political support at the highest level. Can this support be garnered in Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan, where a colonial mindset and corruption are deeply entrenched?

The writer is a former member of the NRB and an international development consultant.

Email: [email protected]

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