The Problem With Pakistani Police
The idea behind writing this article is to highlight the problems prevailing in the police system of Pakistan, the root causes of these problems and the measures which should be taken to bring an improvement into the system.
Role of Police in Pakistan
The main role of the police is to maintain law and order in the country, along with other responsibilities including curbing corruption and illegal activities, etc. Unfortunately, police officials have miserably failed to do justice to their jobs. The question that arises is, what are the root causes which have created a hindrance for this institution not to fix its issues, even in 72 years? To answer this question, I will briefly go into the details of the pre-Partition era.
The only piece of legislation regulating police in Pakistan came into existence in 2002, prior to which the old British Police Act 1861 was being followed, thereby reflecting that Pakistani lawmakers do not seem to feel the need for improvement in the sector.
Police Act 1861
The British government in India felt the need to pass legislation for the police force after the War of Independence had ensued in 1857, in order to avoid such activities in future. Colonial policing resulted in discrimination within the institution of the police because high-ranking officers had been Europeans and lower ranks recruited the locals who were neither properly trained nor properly qualified. The local low rank officials, in order to secure jobs, used to work at the behest of local leaders who were close to the British government. This is how the political leadership got a stronghold over the police. Unfortunately, this centuries old concept still persists.
Post Independence Efforts
Soon after Independence in 1947, various efforts had been initiated by the Government of Pakistan to bring necessary improvements into the law related to the police force. Unfortunately, none of them could be carried out effectively, hence a disorganized ‘thaana culture’ prevailed under which police was being used as a tool by politicians against political opponents and to intimidate the local population.
The Police Order 2001 was passed in the era of General Pervaiz Musharaf, proposing the following changes:
- Abolition of dual control upon the police as in the Police Act of 1861;
- Insulation of the police from extraneous inference, including interference by influential people like the elites, politicians and bureaucrats, etc; and
- Independent prosecution services in every province.
PO 2001 also addressed various organizational and structural problems initiated by the police. The institution was subdivided into different branches and divisions with different responsibilities. This released some pressure on the institution itself and tried to make it more organized.
Amendments to Police Order 2002
It is unfortunate that the original Order of 2002 had been amended only after 2 years. The amendments were proposed in 2004 and 2006 due to pressure from provincial governments and bureaucrats. According to the 2002 Order, the role of the police had been minimized which was not acceptable to the stakeholders. The relevant amendments have been discussed below:
- The autonomy of police forces of the provinces was curtailed and the decisions were made subject to the Chief Minister via the Chief Secretary and Home Secretary;
- Originally, the Provincial Police Officer (PPO) was to be appointed by the Provincial Government out of the three names recommended by the federal government in collaboration with the National Public Safety Commission (NPSC), however, in the amendment, the role of NPSC was removed;
- Several amendments were made with respect to transfers and postings;
- The Chief Minister and District Nazim were given rights to assess the progress of the District Police Officer (DPO); and
- The Police Complaint Cell (PCO) was merged with the Provincial Public Safety Commission (PPSC) which included provincial legislators and nominees.
These amendments are self explanatory, clearly depicting that the politicians couldn’t digest the curtailment of their powers and tried their utmost to change the law.
Post 2010 Changes
The 18th Amendment was a deathblow to the PO 2002 and related amendments. According to the 18th Amendment, provincial governments have the prerogative to frame their own respective laws for the police force. Therefore, all provinces have ended up having different police laws.
Complaints Against Police in Pakistan
Abuse of powers by the police has always been a major complaint put forward by the public. The police is notorious for various human rights violations due the incompetence, lack of professionalism, lack of meritocracy and corruption. Such deficiencies have made the public lose faith in the police. I will briefly discuss various forms of police abuses:
- Failure to investigate the crime properly
Section 154 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) clearly states that the police is under an obligation to lodge an FIR (First Information Report) against complaints involving cognizable offences. Moreover, the police requires the complainant to physically appear at the police station to lodge the FIR.
The sad reality is that the police is often reluctant to lodge a complaint raised by an innocent party unless a bribe has been offered. Furthermore, if the accused is an influential person, the police also often reject to lodge a complaint despite being bribed by the innocent party.
- Arbitrary arrest and detention
The police has extensive powers in Pakistan. They can arrest anyone without an arrest warrant, only on the basis of a mere suspicion. This practice is often carried out when there are doubts about a suspect possessing stolen or illegal items. The arrested suspect is to be produced before a magistrate within 24 hours.
- Torture and ill treatment
Pakistani police often adopts very painful and disturbing methods to torture suspects in custody, particularly during criminal trials. Such techniques include littars (strips of leather for beating), depriving suspects of sleep, slapping them, etc. all of which are in clear violation of local and international laws.
- Extra judicial killings/fake encounters
This is also a very old tactic practised by the Pakistan police whereby innocent people are killed under the guise of an encounter and are later labeled as terrorists or most wanted criminals. A recent case which had been brought to the notice of the judiciary via the media was that of Naqeeb Ullah who had been murdered in a fake encounter. Another case involved the killing of a whole family at a highway toll plaza near Sahiwal.
The list goes on, even though the law only authorizes the use of firearms in self defense.
It can be deduced from the above discussion that no sincere efforts have been made by the legislators to overcome the problems associated with our police. The shortsightedness and vested interests of lawmakers have also kept the police isolated from modern developments.
My suggestion to the general public is to first know your rights and then know how to stand up for your rights. Those sitting in Parliament have already wasted 72 years. Nothing positive can be expected from them.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of CourtingTheLaw.com or any other organization with which he might be associated.