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May 19, 2019

Police Order 2002 revived amid opposition’s protest, walkout


May 19, 2019

Amid a protest and a walkout by the opposition, the provincial assembly on Saturday passed the bill to revive the Police Order 2002 in Sindh as part of the provincial government’s bid to regain administrative control of the police force that was earlier wrested from it in the light of court orders.

The House passed the Sindh (Repeal of the Police Act, 1861 and Revival of Police Order, 2002), Bill 2019 in the light of a report of a 15-member select committee, headed by Agriculture Minister Ismail Rahu and comprising members of both the government and the opposition.

The opposition legislators of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and the Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA) protested in the House and later walked out when the bill came under consideration. They raised slogans against the government and tore up the bill’s copies before walking out.

After the walkout, treasury lawmakers Saeed Ghani, Sharjeel Memon and others were seen helping the assembly staff in picking up the pieces of the bill spread out near the speaker’s rostrum.

The legislators of the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) and the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) did not participate in the protest and walkout by their colleague lawmakers on the opposition benches.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Mukesh Kumar Chawla presented the bill for clause-by-clause consideration by the House. He said the opposition had always resorted to such unproductive and unparliamentary attitude in the PA to conceal the consistent failures of the federal government on the economic front, causing undue and massive fiscal hardships to the masses. He recalled that the opposition had taken part in the meetings of the select committee, and out of their 25 recommendations to revise the draft, 22 had been accepted.

The MMA’s Syed Abdul Rasheed said he fully recognised the constitutional authority of the PA to enact a law for administrative control over the police.

He said the police should be given authority, but at the same time, its functioning should be subordinate to the government. He added that the police chief had participated in the deliberations of the select committee and provided his input.

He hoped that the new police law would end the issue of political interference in the working of the law enforcement department, while its affairs would be run on a meritorious basis, as the public safety commission will be one such step to ensure transparency and accountability in the working of the police.

He said the new police law would also end the culture of using the police force for political victimisation. He added that the ordinary citizens would get speedy justice with the enactment of the new police law.

Later, the GDA’s Shaharyar Khan Mahar returned to the House to speak on the new police law, as he was one of the members of the select committee. He sarcastically congratulated the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) for reviving a law that had been introduced in the country during the past dictatorial regime. He claimed that by passing the law, the PPP had went against its own policy of rejecting all the steps taken during the previous dictatorial regimes in the country.

He said the government had suddenly decided to present the bill in the PA for approval when the opposition legislators who were part of the select committee were busy authoring their dissenting note on the final report of the body before it was tabled in the House. Mahar said the provincial government had gone against the democratic norms and values by presenting the bill unexpectedly.

Rahu said the body had proposed 22 amendments to the draft of the new police law, adding that 20 of those changes were proposed by the opposition and only two by the government. He said the select committee had invited the police chief and representatives of the civil society so they could provide their input on the new police law for the province.

He said the opposition had been protesting against the new police law though the police forces in the other provinces were fully under the control of their respective provincial governments. The police force in KP is so subordinate to the provincial government that the protesting doctors there could not lodge a single FIR on the issue of manhandling of their colleagues in the province, he added.

Culture and Education Minister Sardar Ali Shah said that the previous police law of 1861 had been introduced in the colonial era to suppress rebellion movements of that time against the colonial masters.

He said the new police would transform the police force into the police service as what was the practice in the developed countries. He added that the authority to appoint the inspector general of a provincial force should rest with the chief minister, as the Constitution did not grant such an authority to the federal government.

Shah said the authority to appoint the police chief had been unduly given to the federal government under an administrative tradition without any constitutional sanction. He said the provincial police force, like other provincial departments, should be subordinate to the CM for its proper functioning and accountability before the elected representatives of the province.

Talking to the media later, PA opposition leader Firdous Shamim Naqvi said the new police law was against the aspirations of the people of the province. He said the proposed public safety commission, as envisaged in the new law, would mostly comprise the nominees of the provincial government.

CM’s law adviser Barrister Murtaza Wahab said that 80 per cent of the suggestions of the opposition parties had been incorporated in the new police law. He said that 20 per cent of the suggestions presented by the PTI were rejected on the basis of majority of the government, adding that the new police law was balanced and would ensure effective and accountable policing system in the province.

He also said the police chief had been given administrative and financial powers to effectively use his authority, adding that in case of any mistake and misuse of power, an independent forum comprising government, opposition and civil society representatives would make them accountable.

Wahab said that in the new police order, the law enforcement department was authorised to directly send summaries to the CM and would not be bound to send them to the home department, as the previous process was time consuming and involved 17 to 18 government officials. He said it was an old grievance of the police force that their matters remain stuck in bureaucracy, adding that the law enforcers’ direct access to the chief executive had been ensured in the new law.

The adviser said the suggestion of the opposition leader regarding the forming of a public safety commission has also been incorporated, adding that Naqvi had suggested that a three-member independent selection panel headed by the chief secretary and one representative each of the CM and the opposition leader should select members of the civil society for the body.

The adviser said that no point has been left for the opposition to criticise the new law, as the government has accepted their suggestions with an open heart and now they are only making useless statements and trying to do politics without any positive strategy behind them.

To another question, he said the word “government” is replaced with “chief minister Sindh” in the new police order. He explained that the government means the “cabinet” and it is not possible to convene a cabinet meeting every day, so the CM, who is the elected chief executive of the province, has been given powers in this regard.