The performance of law enforcement throughout the Pakistan is often perceived to be unprofessional, unaccountable and unsatisfactory. The deficiency may stem from the following factors. Firstly, there is tremendous political interference in the conduct of police. Secondly, there are very few functional mechanisms to hold the police accountable for wrongdoing. Finally, the police are seriously under-resourced and ill-equipped to meet the challenges posed by violent insurgency (specifically) and maintaining law and order (generally).
Pakistan is a federation with a strong federal government. Chapter 1 under Part V of the Constitution deals with the distribution of legislative powers between the federal government and provinces. Article 142, as amended under the Constitution (Eighteenth Amendment) Act, 2010 prescribes that Parliament shall not have powers to make laws with respect to any matter not enumerated in the Federal Legislative List. This List does not have the subject of policing. Before the Eighteenth Amendment was passed, the Fourth Schedule to the Constitution had the Concurrent Legislative List that also did not have the subject of policing. However, criminal law and criminal procedure have remained subjects that are within the legislative competence of both Parliament and the provincial legislatures. The Police Act, 1861 (the “Act”) remained applicable in Pakistan as a central law after independence. The Act was replaced with the centrally promulgated Police Order, 2002 which came into effect on 14 August 2002. Click here to view the Police Order, 2002.
The Police Order, 2002 (the “Order”) is based on the recommendations made by the Focal Group on Police Reforms in 2000. The District Magistrates lost their powers of general control over the district police under the Order. The Order sought to provide the police with operational autonomy and freedom from illegitimate political interference. More importantly, the Order also envisaged greater accountability of the police to external institutions. However, subsequent amendments made to the Order diluted the operational autonomy of the police and rendered the external bodies ineffective and dependent on the government of the day. In addition, implementation of the Order has been challenging because provincial governments were not properly consulted during its formulation and civil bureaucracies never accepted the new dispensation. Although police organisations throughout the country continue to adhere to the Order, some provincial governments are seriously considering amending it.
For example, Punjab has decided to draft a new police act. Click here to view the Draft Punjab Police Act, 2010. On 12 February 2010, there was an initial consultation bringing together various stakeholders to discuss the proposed legislation including senior and retired officers of the Punjab Police. Click here to view an article on the Lahore Consultations. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) and the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) worked closely together to critique the draft bill and provide constructive suggestions on what ideal legislation should look like. View CHRI Critique of DPPA 2010.
Provinces around Pakistan have recently seen a rise of sectarian and political violence, and this in turn puts added pressure on the police in these areas. The police often find themselves under-equipped to deal with well-armed militants, and the low pay of police officers only makes matters worse. These factors have led to the police being rendered ineffective and policing duties being handed over to para-military forces or the regular army as in Karachi, where the Pakistan Rangers have been given powers of arrest and search since Feburary 2010. Click here to view article. Pakistan is in the grips of internal instability, with violent incidents reported almost daily, thereby putting more pressure on the already beleaguered provincial police forces. Domestic terrorism has been seen on the rise particularly in South Punjab and Waziristan. Click here to view article.
There are some instances of good practices in Pakistan that could serve as a template for future reform. For instance, the National Highways and Motorways Police (NHMP) was established in 1997 and was initially composed of seconded officers from provincial police forces. With assistance from international specialists, a sophisticated training programme was crafted for the new force. They are an example of a more professionalized and effective police service in Pakistan. The increased efficiency of the NHMP is largely due to being better funded and well trained. The provincial governments in Pakistan and members of the civil services must curb their interference in the police and actively work for their reform and improvement. The police are best placed to deal with critical areas of law enforcement such as urban warfare and terrorism, rather than their para-military or army counterparts. More emphasis needs to be put into protecting minority communities in Pakistan through initiatives such as community policing.
On 14 May 2010, Shehri-CBE and CHRI released the Pakistan-specific version of CHRI’s Indian “101 Things You Wanted To Know About The Police But Were Too Afraid To Ask”, which can be found here. Click here to view press on the release. The Pakistan version was launched in two languages, English and Urdu. The English version can be found here. The Urdu version can be found here.
On 15 May 2010, HRCP in association with CHRI launched “Police Organisations in Pakistan”. Click here to view press on the release. The purpose of the publication is to serve as a resource for people to better understand the roles and responsibilities of the police and to offer practical benefit for people in their interactions with the police. Click here for an electronic version of Police Organisations in Pakistan.