#CTLinterns Call On Chief Minister’s Special Monitoring Unit (Law & Order Wing)
Chief Minister’s Law & Order Special Monitoring Unit (SMU) is an establishment of the Government of Punjab and constitutes an integral part of the Chief Minister’s Office. Senior Member SMU, Mr. Salman Sufi, heads the Law and Order projects, assisted by two analysts and one intern. The body is directly accountable to the Chief Minister and the citizens of Punjab. Since its foundation in August 2014, SMU has already introduced innovative reforms in the Law and Order wing that are currently in implementation stage. Their areas of work include but are not restricted to education, health, law and order, water and sanitation, and excise and taxation. The SMU aims at bringing social change through newness, creating greater impact for the community from grassroots level and improving living standard of all members of the society through all the reforms undertaken.
On 20th June, a team of Courting The Law interns had an interactive session with Mr. Salman Sufi and analysts, Ms. Maheen Rashid and Ms. Hafsah Rehman at the SMU office regarding the operations of SMU and other initiatives in progress.
SMU team started off the interactive session by giving a presentation highlighting different innovative projects that they have been working on since SMU’s commencement in August 2014. The projects include (as also stated on their website http://www.cm.punjab.gov.pk/smu):
- Violence against Women Centers (VAWC).
- Special Monitoring Unit (Law & Order) further drafted and tabled the Punjab Protection of Women against Violence Act before the Cabinet on 25th May, 2015 and got it approved.
- The ‘Women on Wheels’ campaign was introduced by SMU.
- Introduction of a chapter on Women Protection against Violence in Punjab Textbooks.
- The “Sheher-e-khamoshan” project is another outstanding project which deals with model graveyards.
- SMU aims towards transforming Current Policing Model.
- Furthermore, Dealer Vehicle Registration System (DVRS) a much needed reform in Pakistan, has also been looked into by the SMU team. Along with token tax identification stickers. Specialty plates – customized license plates are going to be provided.
- Traffic reforms including their engineering, education and enforcement are also being looked at.
The team of interns then asked a series of question.
#CTLinterns: What was the aim of the women centered reforms?
Maheen Rashid: The aim of this particular Act, that is the Protection of Women Against Violence Act, was to establish an effective system for the protection of women. The aim has been to not only provide delivery of justice at the end of the day but also to provide civil remedies like protection orders, monetary orders and residence orders to women who have been victims of violence. These will be available to them along with remedies in criminal law under the Pakistan Penal Code.
#CTLinterns: How will the Violence Against Women Centers (VAWC) work?
MR: These centers will basically operate as a one-stop shop. It will contain different departments under one roof including first aid, FIR (First Instance Report) lodging, prosecution, medical examination and forensics. It will be a women-run facility and will be operational 24/7. We have specific SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) for the hiring and training of these women.
#CTLinterns: Are these centers operational?
MR: We began work on these centers even before our Bill passed in February. We did not want to make them dependent on the passing of the Bill, even though they are part of the implementation mechanism that would follow. We began their construction back in September 2015. The first one is being constructed in Multan as the rate of violence against women is highest over there, due to the availability of the cotton belt which employs a large number of women. The number of acid attacks is also the highest. The center in Multan will become operational in another two to three months, as we are in the process of hiring more people.
#CTLinterns: The FIRs being lodged in the centers, will they ultimately go to the local police stations or will the centers be responsible for them?
Salman Sufi: The Violence Against Women Centers will be able to liaison with the FIR lodging. We are trying to ensure that whichever district the center is operating in, it will have the authority to lodge FIRs. It will be handling all the investigations for crimes related to violence against women.
#CTLinterns: A lot of women who are subject to domestic violence are those who have been engaged by poor families to work as domestic servants. They do not seem to be included under the scope of the legislation. So how do you plan to cater to them?
SS: There are centers that have been made for these women, however, they aren’t as effective for the reasons already mentioned. Therefore, we have another legislation pending for the domestic workers policy. That is why we did not include this in the current legislation as there were some legal complications that needed to be considered in involving them into the ambit of the current Bill. In the domestic workers policy they are given other protections as well, such as related to their wages, etc.
#CTLinterns: Are you going to have specified dealers for the Dealer Vehicle Registration System?
MR: Yes there are going to be specified dealers. Right now the SMU has 9-10 dealers who have signed a memorandum of understanding with the Excise and Taxation Department. Then we have the National Bank of Pakistan that is collaborating with them over finances.
#CTLinterns: What was the purpose behind ‘grave yard reforms’?
MR: We are trying to bring under one roof all the services needed after the death of an individual. An ambulance will be directed to go to that particular location to bring the dead body. There will be mortuary services, janazgah, bathing facilities, sections for offering prayers, etc. So at the end of the day, the only cost an individual will have to bear will be that of the grave. All other services will be provided for free.
Our aim is to implement this in all 36 districts of Punjab. At the moment we have approval for 5 districts.
#CTLinterns: What do the police reforms aim toward?
MR: We are working on a law enforcement center. The idea behind it is to bring all of the different departments under one roof. We have revamped them completely to eliminate the ‘thana’ culture. We are trying to increase accountability for police stations. We are going to be launching this at two model police stations in Lahore. One is going to be at Racecourse and another one in Model Town, Lahore.
#CTLinterns: What work have you carried out with regards to traffic reforms?
MR: Currently motorcycles and rickshaws are driving haphazardly on roads. We are trying to ensure that there is a separate motorcycle lane, a small one that does not hinder the entire flow of traffic. We are also working on Punjab Driving Education Centers for traffic education. We are trying to enforce these traffic reforms through the payment of fines online and through ATMs (Automated Teller Machines).
#CTLinterns: Are there any other projects in the pipeline?
MR: The other projects we’re doing include Mobile Libraries and we have also got the Restaurant Grading System implemented. In this day and age, reading culture has declined greatly, so our aim is to build mobile library vans and motorcycles which will have different books laden on them. They will go to different residential areas of Lahore and could even play music to attract children. We are getting this implemented through the City District Government Lahore.
#CTLinterns: What is the criterion for the restaurant grading?
Hafsah Rehman: We were in touch with an organization in Islamabad that is funded by the European Union. They formed this criterion for us that included points regarding hygiene, cleanliness and food quality, etc. So restaurants were graded based on those points. Restaurants with a score between zero and ten earned A, 10-25 earned B, and so on. We have also made available a website for this where customers can check which restaurants got what grade.
#CTLinterns: How are all the projects funded?
SS: What we normally do is move different financial requests to the local government. We make an entire feasibility report for them to consider on why exactly the funding is needed. This goes through an entire process after which the local government provides us with the necessary funds.
#CTLinterns: How do you plan to spread the word on all these ongoing projects and initiatives undertaken by the SMU?
SS: We are a very small team so we don’t get a lot of funding for marketing. So when we come up with reforms, we focus on steering them in the right direction. Courting the Law has also helped us in spreading the word on their website and through Facebook posts and tweets, etc. (details here: http://courtingthelaw.com/category/updates/special-monitoring-unit/ ).
#CTLinterns: Is there a specific procedure you follow to ensure transparency and accountability in all your projects?
SS: We work directly with the Chief Minister, so we report to him regarding every project. That is why they are being effectively implemented. We keep a record of everything, work directly with the concerned departments and report back on everything to the Chief Minister on a monthly basis. This makes things run smoothly.
#CTLinterns: What challenges do you face?
SS: Basically most of the bureaucracy does not face problems that the general public faces. Thus there can be resistance from their end if they see the system changing.
#CTLinterns: How do you plan to involve the youth in SMU’s projects?
SS: We plan on engaging everyone in spreading the word, once the women protection Bill gets implemented from Multan, and encouraging women to participate and actually report cases, as the aim is to create deterrence, not fill the jails. When more and more women would report cases of violence, it might be chaotic initially, but once the dust settles, people would be more careful and try to prevent such acts of violence and be willing to report, once they know that a mechanism exists to deals with such matters. The youth can spread the word and encourage women to use the centers as well as make use of the legislation as much as possible, as the real goal is to change the society’s mindset.
SMU is on a mission to transform public services across the province and aims to protect and safeguard the interests of various sectors of the public effectively. For #CTLinterns the highlight of the interview has been that SMU operates as a think tank, involving different stakeholders into their process in order to achieve efficiency at every stage. Not only this, SMU has progressed on to the implementation phase as well. The efforts of the relentlessly hardworking SMU team can be viewed from the tangible and positive impact in the law and order of Punjab. The success of these projects has also been internationally acclaimed (details here: https://www.facebook.com/CMsSMU/ and https://twitter.com/smucmo ).
(Report by Zealaf Shahzad, Hijab Khan, Ameer Abdaal, Anam Bangash, Amna Feroz, Khadija Naeem, Deeya Farrukh)