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154 years of modern policing

Pakistan on 06 April 2015
Location : Pakistan | Source : Daily Times; Image Source: WikiMedia Commons

A majority of senior police officers think that quality of policing will improve with mere increase of numerical strength. They will realise that the police is not to be considered an employment exchange.

The history of modern policing in the Indo-Pak subcontinent is as old as the imprint of British imperialism. The War of Independence 1857 compelled the imperialists to revise their policing strategy. The promulgation of the Police Act 1861 was reflective of their quest to enhance their control over the natives. The Police Commission 1860 recommended the abolition of the military arm of the police. The new Police Act delegated the administration of the police to the Inspector General (IG) and Superintendent of Police (SP). Undoubtedly, the Police Act was not promulgated to serve the public but rather to secure colonial interests. Consequently, this gave birth to a colonial and coercive style of policing.

The total sanctioned strength of the Pakistan police is 412,167. Apart from four provincial police services, the Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) police, motorway police, Gilgit-Baltistan police, Railways Police and Islamabad Capital Police are federal police organisations. Since independence, two-dozen commissions and committees have been mandated to transform the police from an instrument of force to a public-friendly service. The Police Act remained operational for 141 years, replaced by the Police Order (PO) 2002. But without testing its efficacy during the last 12 years, dozens of amendments were incorporated into PO 2002 while Sindh and Balochistan reverted back to the colonial recipe of 1861.

In the original text of PO 2002, to protect the public interest and enhance public safety, institutional apparatuses like public safety commissions, citizen police liaison committees and complaint authorities were incorporated. Apart from public interest, the organisational structure was also reviewed. In PO 2002, the distinction between urban and rural policing was made. The concept of policing by objectives and accountability were also incorporated. To incorporate planning as an important ingredient of policing, the “annual policing plan” and “annual reports” were made imperative.

Article eight of the PO 2002 divided the police into 18 functional units but this specialised division has yet to be translated into reality. Article 18 refers to separation of operational policing from investigation but every province has adopted its own recipe. In democratic societies, the police are regarded as the first line of defence, with the mandate to save the public from evil intentions and actions of criminals but our rigid bureaucratic policing apparatus has failed to satisfy the public. However, during the 1990s, the police successfully responded to the challenges of sectarian militancy in Punjab and ethnic strife in Karachi. The question arises: what were the factors behind these success stories? Simply the patronage of the ruling elite, clarity regarding the mandate and administration of the police by dedicated, motivated and honest professionals.

Though in Pakistan the media always portrays a negative image of the police but from the same tainted image the motorway police was raised. Within one decade institutions like Transparency International and Asian Development Bank termed the motorway police a “corruption-free” police organisation. The success of the motorway police is a ray of hope for us. Following in the footsteps of the motorway police, the thaana (police station) can be reformed. Unfortunately, our police reforms have excluded the police station, hence primary focus remains on the well being of the police leadership or cosmetic recipes. Resultantly, common folk have not benefited from such reforms.

In the post-9/11 scenario, the Pakistan police faced the major brunt of the wrath of the savages. The police have protected the public with their blood. However, the poor image of the police overshadowed the sacrifices of the thousands of unsung heroes belonging to the police. Hence transformation of the police into a public-friendly service is inescapable. Analysis of media content suggests that the police dominates the headlines and often becomes the victim of media bashing. Such criticism can be converted into commendation only by a professional and service-oriented police force. To attain this objective, it is imperative to understand that the police is not to be treated as a source of employment and instrument of coercion.

Historically, the Pakistani police force did not adapt itself to changing patterns of crime. The post-9/11 scenario badly affected the morale and physical infrastructure of the police. Police stations are fortified with sandbags and heavily armed policemen wearing bulletproof vests have further distanced the police institution from the public. The police look like a constabulary. Apart from crime management, to wage war against extremism is the real test case. In a society where human bombs are exploding every now and then, it becomes difficult to fully control the situation.

Training is another missing link in Pakistani policing. Undoubtedly, policing is another name for respect for humanity, adaptability and a friendly attitude. In a society where policemen are being hated, assaulted and even killed, the possibility of a smiling cop recedes. Coordination and information sharing are imperatives of effective policing. The situation warrants well-coordinated efforts among provincial and federal law enforcement agencies. Though the British-Indian government introduced an elaborate intelligence and information collection apparatus at the district level, after independence special branches primarily remained stagnant and failed to adapt to technological innovations.

Modern states have introduced e-policing but we are still in love with the obsolete colonial recipe. Technology is being frequently employed by criminals and terrorists but our law enforcement bodies are averse to technology. Technological use will not only increase the probability of success in tracing criminals but will also reduce dependence on the human resource. Police management should attain a balance between increase of human resources and use of technology. A majority of senior police officers think that quality of policing will improve with mere increase of numerical strength. They will realise that the police is not to be considered an employment exchange. Apart from recruitment, capacity building, training, motivation and monitoring are other neglected priorities of policing.

Police welfare is another neglected priority. Undoubtedly, the police are duty bound to protect society but, in response, society should take care of police welfare. In the post-9/11 era, the federal and provincial governments have extended generous gestures but philanthropists and multinational companies should also take care of the families of martyred policemen. The media should highlight their sacrifices. To pay homage to the police martyred, in many countries a National Police Day is celebrated but in Pakistan unsung heroes from the police have yet to be acknowledged. On the other hand, terrorists take care of the families of suicide bombers.

We should realise that investment in police is a developmental phenomenon, hence policing needs to be included in developmental plans. Remember: without investment in policing, development and peace remain elusive ideals.

The writer is a police officer

 

 

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