Beyond Thana Culture, but when?

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DOING away with the prevalent Thana culture which only delivers to the influential people and involves abuse of power by police personnel is something that has been promised by successive governments in our country but it is unfortunate that nothing has visibly changed on the ground as the common man still considers and fears the police stations as the ‘no-go-areas’ for the treatment and abuse of power they experience there.
One had pinned great expectations on Imran Khan-led PTI government that it will deliver its election promise of bringing much-needed reforms in the institution on the pattern of the KP. However, that is yet to be seen despite the passage of about one and a half years in power. Whilst inaugurating Model Police Station in Mianwali, Prime Minister Imran Khan said it is time for police in Punjab to move beyond the thana-kutchery culture and develop as a force on modern lines. Whilst, the initiative of model police station in Mianwali, which the PM declared as a beginning, is really appreciated but the people expect much wider change in the entire police department which protects the weak and innocent from the criminal elements. This can only be done by firstly freeing the force from any political interference. Then there is really need to revisit the obsolete recruitment and training of police officials. In our view, the police need to recruit officers at the young age of 18-22 and have them undergo rigorous training on the pattern of the army. For specialised fields e.g. investigative units for white-collar crime, there can be lateral recruitment, just like the army recruits doctors, engineers and educationists. Training at the Civil Services Academy is redundant for the police service; it has nothing to do with their field. The specialized trainings do not help much either, because these are treated as a mere formality and are thus inadequate. Apart from ensuring merit based recruitment from top to bottom, training programs should be arranged for the police personnel keeping in view the modern day requirements. Though there are a series of reports on police reforms which are gathering dust somewhere but the government may consider the most recent report formulated by Police Reforms Committee constituted by the Supreme Court. It gives a clear roadmap to the government to bring holistic changes in the police department. In a nutshell, our police will continue beating suspects to death if we keep beating about the bush by delaying genuine police reforms. There will be elements in bureaucracy who will try to stall, delay and kill any reforms process, but one has great expectations from Imran Khan, who is known for doing extraordinary things, to translate his vision into reality about police reforms. This in fact will be the first major step towards providing justice to the people.

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