News & Views
IN his lecture “Politics as a Vocation” (1918), the German sociologist Max Weber defines the state as a “human community that (successfully) claims the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory.” In this regard, the police, along with the military, represent the coercive arm of the state. The separation of powers between the police and government is considered an important tenet of liberal democracy. This helps in ensuring that the police are not used in a partisan way to harass and punish political opponents. The police have various roles. Officially, the core functions of the police include enforcing the law, maintaining the peace, and protecting life and property of citizens. It is therefore necessary to introduce genuine police reforms with a view to strengthening police, properly equipping them and training them so that they can effectively perform their duties efficiently and effectively.
In Pakistan, police reforms had been undertaken at federal and provincial level in the past but were never implemented in letter and spirit. During Musharraf era, then chief minister Punjab Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi had hired three retired military officers to organize recruitment of 25000 police on merit. Three conscientious police officers were also inducted to make recruitment on merit, but there was pressure from members of the Punjab Assembly to make appointments on their recommendations. However, three police officers refused to do the MPAs bidding and resigned. For decades, the police had been used as an instrument of power instead of an efficient public service. Police law, in fact, remained a federal concern and law enforcement, a provincial domain.
After independence, from 1951 to 2000 more than a dozen commissions and committees were formed by various governments to reform the police but nothing concrete came out of them. However, after the implementation of police order (PO) 2002, practical steps were taken to improve the forces, but within a couple years the enthusiasm died down. After end of Musharraf era and installation of democratic government, those reforms were scrapped. There is need to address the issues of ineffective command and control, inefficiency, corruption, poor public dealing, trust deficit, arbitrary use of power, misuse of authority and political interference, which indeed is a tall order.
Addressing these concerns requires diagnostic approaches coupled with the establishment of public safety apparatus and independent complaint authorities. Though PO 2002 ensured the tenure for senior police officers, public welfare and safety were compromised due to vested interests. Central Intelligence Agency (CID) was once part of the police; and the police cadres including special police used to have complete information about the criminals in the area. Anyhow, there is need to depoliticise the police, equip them and train them properly to increase their effectiveness. Recently, for the first time ever, KP opted for its own police law. Nevertheless, the question arises that in the presence of a provincial legislature, why was police law promulgated through an ordinance? To convert it into a true democratic law, it is imperative that the provincial legislature has debate and transform it into an “Act”.
Sustainable reforms warrant inclusion of not only the stakeholders within the criminal justice system but also the representation from civil society. In the dismal scenario, a redeeming feature is the growing realisation in the country that development schemes alone may not determine the efficacy of governments but rather the governance apparatus. Therefore, in order to meet expectations of the people, investment in law enforcement and police reforms is inevitable. But there are instances when police and members of executive or parliamentarians collude in corruption. In November 2013, former inspector general (IG) of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Malik Naveed Khan was taken into custody by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB). He was accused of misusing his authority as Frontier Constabulary (FC) Commandant and conducting illegal recruitment of about 500 people. He was also alleged to have made millions in an arms purchase deal worth Rs.6 billion with a Chinese firm a few years back.
“It was revealed that the contractor in connivance with other accused persons was controlling the entire process of competition of bids to get the contract,” read the NAB statement. According to NAB, Malik Naveed earlier offered to pay Rs.40 million and then increased it to Rs.80 million but the bureau turned down his offer as he is considered the primary accused in the case. Raza Ali Khan is accused of taking Rs.195 million for Ghazan Hoti and Rs.3 million for himself as kickbacks to remove all hurdles in the awarding of the contract. “On the receipt of complaints, NAB (KP) authorised an inquiry against senior police officers and others for alleged embezzlement in procurement of weapons, ammunition, bulletproof jackets, night vision goggles, etc in 2008-2009 and 2009-2010, by violating government rules, thus causing a loss of Rs.2.03 billion to the state exchequer,” the reported stated.
Apart from the former police chief, there were big names accused by the NAB including Raza Ali Khan, a relative of former chief minister Amir Haider Hoti and Hoti’s brother Amir Ghazan Hoti. The case, which was earlier tried in 2011, was revisited as part of NAB chairman Qamar Zaman Chaudhry’s new initiative to review pending cases. An accountability court had ordered Naveed’s release on October 10, 2011 after he was detained in a reference filed by NAB on 24th November 2010 in the accountability court seeking his trial for misuse of his authority. NAB sent a brief of the case to its head office regarding the case in which the officials of FC, including its former commandant, were blamed for recruiting candidates illegally. It is unfortunate that instead of performing their duties conscientiously, some members of police force and elected representatives betray people’s trust.
—The writer is a senior journalist based in Lahore.