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October 30, 2018

Police reforms remain a far cry


October 30, 2018

Islamabad: The latest postings and transfers of the police and the district administration officials in the Punjab done by the Pakistan Tehreek-insaf (PTI) government speak volumes about their inability to gauge the performance, credibility and integrity of the officers.

It was reliably learnt that majority of these officers were on the ‘Negative List’ prepared by Nasir Durrani after he was made head of the committee to work on ‘Police Reforms in the Punjab’. One wonders who prepared the list of these officers to be posted and transferred and what was the criteria set for judging their credentials.

Something somewhere in the system seems to be very wrong. Either the bureaucracy has mocked the political leadership trying to run the province or the politicians themselves are interested in getting such officers posted in their areas to continue to use the ‘strong arm of police’ for their objectives.

To give only one glaring example is the transfer of BA Nasir, the CCPO of Lahore. BA Nasir enjoys an unblemished service record and while he was serving with the UN Mission he pursued the cases against high profile officials and war criminals with such efficiency and accuracy that most of them were found guilty of the charges levelled against them and were handed out maximum punishments.

When a right decision was taken, apparently inadvertently, by the government to remove the Inspector General of Police in the federal capital, the method adopted was so flawed that it was reversed by the Supreme Court and caused embarrassment to the government as well.

After the initial euphoria regarding much trumpeted police reforms in the Punjab a lull seem to have befallen and the things have become quiet with the pull out of Nasir Khan Durrani from the committee set up by the PTI government to accomplish the task.

The announcement of formation of the committee, headed by Nasir Durrani created a stir all round. There was enthusiasm and criticism, optimism and pessimism, in favour and against the decision in media as well as the government circles, particularly the police department.

Evidently the move was scuttled by the bureaucracy in the Punjab through steps which conveyed the message to Mr Durrani that he himself or at least the initiatives he intended to implement in the Punjab Police department were not acceptable.

Mr Durrani, apparently sans any powers in the process, decided to pull out and save his reputation from getting smeared or smudged. And the Punjab Police department seems to have heaved a big sigh of relief.

One may not agree, but all this was expected. The bureaucracy in the Punjab was not ready to swallow the policies and initiatives that Mr Durrani intended to implement to reform the policing in Punjab.

Only because those were aimed at bringing about a change in the policing system, making it efficient to the desired levels where it should transform into a crime fighting and controlling force, eliminate corruption, reform the existing ‘thana culture’ and turning it into a people friendly force.

And that was the last thing the bureaucracy and, probably the politicians of the Punjab also wanted. Because Punjab Police is the symbol of power and protector of corrupt and powerful! However, the question remains. Will Prime Minister Imran Khan, who has kept the portfolio of Interior Minister with himself, will let the things continue the way they are?

Will he succumb to the manoeuvrings and manipulations of the bureaucracy, nurtured by the PML-N leadership over the last 30 years, making it learn to serve the ‘Family’ and not the state.

Will he succeed to release the Punjab bureaucracy, especially the police and the district management from the claws of the past rulers, who evidently have dug too deep to release their grip so easily.

Conceded the Prime Minister Imran Khan has found himself entangled in a gigantic ball of problems, which need his most urgent attention indeed. To encompass all those, the word ‘Economy’ is enough.

Evidently he has put the issue of ‘Police Reforms’ in the Punjab on the lines of the Khyber Pakhtunkwa on the back burner for the time being. But while he is casting his glance away from this very basic problem, implementation of which can really change the lives of people of the Punjab, the police department as well as the district administration is making hay while the sun continues to shine on them.

Police corruption and cruelty continues to rule in the province of Punjab and people still tremble on seeing a policeman approaching them. The honest officers are still reluctant to put their foot down as they still are not sure whose directions or orders they should follow. From those sitting in power or the ones who are now in opposition. Because over the last three decades or so they have been trained to wait for instructions/directions in any case reported within their jurisdiction.

As a result, corruption is rampant, exploitation is continuing, ‘thana culture’ is flourishing and poor victims, having already been hurt in the society continue to face more victimization at the hands of the Punjab Police.

But the hope is still not diminished completely. People as well as the honest elements in the Punjab Police are still optimistic that a change in the system might come, if Imran Khan decided to keep his promise.

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