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October 5, 2019

Police reforms in Punjab, KP proposed: CM to oversee Special Branch, post senior cops

Top Story

October 5, 2019

PESHAWAR: The federal government is considering new police reforms in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab under which the Special Branch will be put directly under the command of the chief minister who will also approve the posting and transfer of senior cops, a highly-placed source told The News on Friday.

The Special Branch, the intelligence wing of the police force, currently works under the supervision of the inspector general of police (IGP) in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab and other provinces. Besides, under the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Police Act 2017, the IGP has been empowered to post officers till the rank of the Additional IGPs without consulting the provincial government.

The source told this scribe that a meeting at the Prime Minister’s Secretariat on September 13 discussed various laws, including reforms in the police force and district and divisional administrations, especially in Punjab and KP.

“Place Special Branch directly under the chief minister,” states the para 14 of the record note of the meeting that was sent to the federal and provincial government departments. The meeting also discussed a democratic accountability mechanism of police through the cabinet sub-committee on law and order.

The meeting suggested that the posting proposals of police should be made on the basis of performance by an internal board of senior police officers before forwarding the names to the IGP. “The IGP will then send a panel of three names each to the chief minister for posting of any district police officer, regional police officer and additional IGP and CM shall appoint officer among the panel,” stated para 11 of the record note.

The meeting, the source added, also discussed necessary amendments in financial rules to ensure financial autonomy of police stations by declaring the SHO as drawing and disbursing officer.

The source said the meeting decided that standards regarding arrest, detention and questioning of persons by the police, identification of suspects, search and seizure and operation of roadblocks would be laid down by the provincial government for which the relevant provision in the police order would be amended accordingly with due regard to due process and fair trial requirements. This decision was made following complaints of highhandedness of police across the country.

“Besides, an independent and autonomous Police Complaint Authority with regional presence is to be formed to redress public grievances against police excesses. Provincial governments to repeal provisions regarding public safety commissions in the police order and bring separate law establishing independent external inspectorates and to take remedial measures and remove deficiencies and issues,” a source disclosed from the record note of the meeting.

“Divisional and district administrations in Punjab and KP be strengthened by amending the existing Civil Administration Law in Punjab and introducing similar dispensation in KP. The focus of the good governance laws should be to ensure effective coordination, monitoring and accountability of various organs of the state functioning in respective jurisdiction,” stated the minutes of the meetings sent to federal and provincial government departments.

It was also decided to form an independent monitoring board to redress grievances against the conduct of civil officers to ensure accountability and monitoring.

The slogan of depoliticising police and making the IG independent was a major slogan of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) during the last general election campaign. A source informed that it has been decided that the KP Police Act 2017 would be amended to give effect to these initiatives. “However, KP Police has been given autonomy due to a technical hitch in the composition of the Scrutiny Committees, Public Safety Commissions & Regional Complaint Authorities that could not be established so far. The independence of the IGP was the hallmark of the KP Police Act 2017 and is a feather in the cap of the PTI. In case the proposed new reforms were implemented, the posting of SHOs and DSPs will be once again placed under the influence of local MNA and MPA,” a senior officer requesting anonymity said.

He added that police forces in Commonwealth countries have Special Branch within the police force which reports to the police chief. “By taking the Special Branch away from the police & placing it under the CM would raise questions of political victimization. The government would be accused of using Hoover-like tactics against political opponents,” stated the official.

On October 3, in a letter written by Secretary of the Law and Justice Commission of Pakistan, the government is conveyed to ensure administrative and operational autonomy of the police force before taking any steps regarding police reforms. The letter written by the LJCP secretary expressed confidence in the performance of police and stated that data from Police Complaint Redressal Centres showed public confidence in police force as the chief justice of Pakistan has conveyed that operational and administrative autonomy of police is as vital as independence of judiciary.

Former chief justice of Pakistan Saqib Nisar had constituted the Police Reforms Committee last year. The committee comprises of former IGPs who enjoy good reputation.