A Good Police Service Is The State’s Best Bet Against Crime
An effective, well-functioning and self-disciplined police service is mandatory for the countering insurgency and terrorism in any country. Unfortunately, for many years, Pakistan has been engaged in battling a hydra-headed insurgency in all provinces. So far Pakistan has suffered more than 40 thousand casualties in the war on terror at the hands of suicide bombers.
Changing tactics and the advancement of assault technology alongside a fearless environment available to different terrorist organizations pose a formidable challenge to the police force with limited resources, poor training and inadequate equipment. Pakistan’s civil law enforcement structure has failed to develop any systematic and advanced counter-terrorism strategy. Law and order duties and VIP protection responsibilities consume a significant chunk of police resources. Lack of forensic support diminishes police effectiveness. Corruption, nepotism and political manipulation are rampant and they damage police integrity, credibility and public image. The image of police with the public is no different from that of goons.
As Pakistan was under attack by different terrorist organizations, the army carried out military operations in different areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and is still fighting in some areas. However, it has been universally agreed upon that a police-led effort would be better than the one led by the military. The killing of civilians is not war but murder, so the genre of terrorism is crime. If terrorists are criminals, their natural antagonists are the police. In fighting against any type of terrorism, a good police service is any state’s best bet.
With increasing insecurity and instability, the government of Pakistan must consider making major changes to the police service. Some initiatives have been launched in terms of the forensic laboratory, safe city authority and commencement of different patrolling forces.
However, there is still room for improvement.
Recommendations for reforms can be categorized into two broad categories: traditional and innovative reforms.
The following recommendations can help with reform prospects.
- Implement the original Police Order 2002 nationwide. The 2004 amendments to the Police Order 2002, reintroduced the tools of political manipulation. They should be discarded and the new ideas introduced in the Punjab Police Act 2010 which make the police more accountable and encourage a community policing model, should be incorporated into the Police Order 2002. All provinces, FATA, the Azad Kashmir region, and Gilgit-Baltistan should be governed by a common Police Act.
- Increase public awareness. The level of public awareness about the changes introduced with the 2002 reforms was very low. As a result, the new mechanisms for ensuring police independence and opportunities for redress of grievances against police high-handedness remained largely unimplemented. A public information campaign focusing on citizens’ rights and police accountability can help this cause. Lately, the independent broadcast media in Pakistan has started exposing police brutality and is making an impact nationwide. The government of Pakistan needs to understand that an effective and independent police service will add to the legitimacy of democratic governance.
- Focus on junior officers. Investigative field work is primarily done by those in junior ranks, whereas most of the international training facilities are currently offered to senior supervisory officers. This pattern needs to be reversed so that junior officers have significant training opportunities.
- Provide training support and equipment. Pakistan has a poor track record in utilizing international aid, especially when it comes in the form of financial handouts. Corrupt officials in Pakistan and foreign private contractors from donor countries often benefit most from such aid. Support for investigative training and help in the acquisition of modern equipment (e.g. small weapons, scanners, bulletproof jackets, armoured vehicles) will be more effective. Moreover, police training academies are often overlooked by international donors – an oversight that needs correction. Finally, foreign donors should avoid framing everything in the context of counter-terrorism, as Pakistani public opinion is likely to be more appreciative of international help in this arena if it is focused on enhancing the crime-fighting capacity of police. Donors should also involve their own police organizations in the process rather than depending overwhelmingly on the private sector.
- Help National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) in analytical and research work. This fledgeling organization needs both internal and external help in attracting experienced experts and analysts who can focus on scientific and statistical studies dealing with crime patterns and develop databases useful for counterterrorism. For effective counterterrorism and counterinsurgency efforts, the law enforcement model also needs non-policing corrective measures, such as developing public awareness about the nature of the threat through the media and incorporating counter-extremist discourse into the public schools’ curriculum. Decommissioning the brigades of militants and terrorists will require well-resourced and well-devised de-cartelization programs. NACTA can spearhead such initiatives if given requisite funds and independence from bureaucratic channels. Unfortunately, NACTA has already been the victim of political turf battles – its first Director General and a leading counterterrorism expert, Tariq Pervez, resigned in July 2010 because of opposition in some quarters to placing NACTA directly under the Prime Minister (as opposed to the Ministry of Interior).
- Increase the number of forensic laboratories. Although there are forensic laboratories under police department but its capacity is low. Recommendations for Innovative Reforms as is evident from the half-hearted implementation of the 2002 reforms and predictable of the governmental dithering out of short-term political expediency, traditional reforms by themselves are rarely enough. They need to be coupled with innovative reforms. Two critical ones are described below.
- Restructuring of law enforcement organizations. Though Pakistan must resist the temptation to create new specialized anti-terrorism structures that marginalize the country’s already existing institutions, the establishment of a central organization similar to the Department of Homeland Security in the United States will go a long way toward improving coordination between various law enforcement agencies in the country. As explained earlier, the chain of command for various organizations is complicated and dispersed. Structuring of the overall command setup that brings all the federal institutions under one umbrella can help system effectiveness considerably. Provincial police chiefs, operating under the executive control of chief ministers, can be increasingly involved in policy planning at the central level through this new organization. Staunch proponents of provincial autonomy will likely be the strongest opponents of such reorganization. One way to alleviate their concerns is to involve all stakeholders in the decision-making process and ensure that the new institution focuses on coordination rather than on control. The fact that such experienced hands as retired Lieutenant General Moeen-ud-din Haider, who remained minister of interior under General Musharraf, supported the creation of such an institution indicates that many well-informed voices can be counted on to support such a major overhaul of the system.
- Reform of the criminal justice system. The credibility of Pakistan’s higher judiciary has increased in recent years with the judiciary’s defiant response to former president Musharraf’s arbitrary removal of the chief justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, Mr Iftikhar Chaudhry, and in the aftermath of the popular lawyers’ movement. Consequently, at the level of the Supreme Court and the provincial High Courts, the judiciary is increasingly independent. Recently, the landmark verdict in the Panama Case takes the independence of the judiciary to the next level. However, police performance faces its first test in the lower courts, which are in poor shape, largely for reasons similar to those that plague police work—limited resources, lack of professionalism, and incompetence. Through a new National Judicial Policy, the higher judiciary has already begun introducing major reforms to the lower courts, but considerable financial support will be needed from the government to bring this initiative to fruition. According to one of Pakistan’s widely respected and most competent senior police officials, Tariq Khosa, who was a former Federal Secretary in the Ministry of Narcotics in Islamabad, police accountability through an independent judiciary is one of the most effective ways to ensure improvement in police performance.
The police department should constitute a media cell to promote its better image as ISPR has proven itself as a nursery for fostering a good reputation of the army among the nation. The police department should come forward through its media cell to promote the martyred and those who sacrificed their lives for the country.
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