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May 20, 2019

Opposition smells politicisation of police in new law


May 20, 2019

The opposition lawmakers in the Sindh Assembly who were part of the select committee that reviewed the draft of the bill to revive the Police Order 2002 have, in a joint note of dissent, objected to the provision empowering the provincial government to directly appoint deputy superintendents of police (DSPs), saying that such powers are tantamount to politicisation of the police force.

The PA on Saturday had passed the bill to revive the Police Order 2002 and repeal the Police Act 1861 amid a protest and a walkout by the opposition legislators belonging to three political parties.

Five opposition MPAs who were part of the 15-member select committee have jointly authored a note of dissent over the final report of the body. The opposition legislators who jointly drafted the note of dissent are PA opposition leader Firdous Shamim Naqvi of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), the PTI’s Haleem Adil Sheikh, Shehryar Khan Mahar of the Grand Democratic Alliance, and Khawaja Izharul Hassan and Muhammad Hussain Khan of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM). Speaking in the House during its session on Saturday, Agriculture Minister Muhammad Ismail Rahu, convener of the select committee, had said he had received the note of dissent jointly written by the opposition lawmakers, as it would be made part of the final report of the body.

In its joint dissent note, the five opposition legislators said that their proposal that under the police law in Sindh the recruitment in the police force would only be done at the levels of constable and assistant sub-inspectors while the rest of the positions would be filled through promotion has been ignored in the final draft of the law presented before the House for approval.

“This very essential recommendation has been totally ignored by the treasury benches, and we would like to record our dissent on the recruitment policy containing the provision, which empowers the government to directly appoint DSPs, as it will make the police force highly politicised and create a lot of problems within the police service, as there will be no respect for seniority,” read the note.

The note of dissent further reads that the law authorises the provincial government to post additional inspectors general, deputy inspectors general and senior superintendents of police, and such powers would be a clear violation of the court directives.

The opposition lawmakers’ note also states that a proposal of establishing women’s section in every police station with proper female staff including a police officer was not incorporated in the final draft of the law, even though both the treasury and opposition members had agreed to the proposal. The suggestion was put forth by the MQM’s Izharul Hassan.

The note of dissent reads that a number of provisions in the new police law for the province severely compromise the administrative autonomy and independence of the police force through politicisation.

It states that wresting the powers of the inspector general of police (IGP) for making appointments, transfers and postings in the police force and vesting those powers in the chief minister or bureaucrats is one of the provisions compromising the autonomy of the law enforcement service.

Moreover, it states, the accountability of the police force under the new law would be done by the provincial public safety commission, the district public safety commission and the police complaints commission, which, in terms of their composition, would be dominated by the Sindh government.

The opposition takes strong exception to the powers of the proposed district public safety commission and the police complaints commission to do inquiries related to the police service rather than the same matters being dealt with through departmental inquiries.

“As far as the IGP’s role is concerned, it was discussed and debated [by the select committee], but the bill does not reflect the same. The IGP is supposed to maintain complete control over his force,” reads the note.

It states that the powers of the IGP to depute police officials for inquiries related to the police service have been given to the district coordination committee and the provincial safety coordination committee.

“We had proposed that the IGP could only be transferred if he did not meet the goals set out in the provincial police plan, but this proposal has also been ignored,” the note reads. It also states that the opposition had suggested that the provincial public safety commission only be empowered to recommend removal of the IGP to the CM, who in turn would forward the suggestion to the federal government, which is the appointing authority in this matter.

“This process has also been ignored, and in the proposed document the CM is empowered to remove the IGP and send him back to the federal government,” the opposition wrote in the note.

The note states that certain matters related to the police service, including the traffic police, the use of torture during police custody and the internal audit of the police service, were discussed during the deliberations of the select committee, but they were not included in the final draft of the bill.

A day earlier, amid a protest and a walkout by the opposition, the provincial assembly had 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 government bill No. 13 of 2019 — 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, that had mulled over the draft of the proposed law for revision.

The opposition legislators of the PTI, the 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, the committee’s convener, 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.

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