IGP's move to please MPs may increase political interference in police

Pakistan on 02 July 2013
Location : Pakistan | Source : Dawn

At a time when the new PML-N government is talking about police reforms, a recent directive issued by the acting police chief of the Punjab to his subordinate officers is poised to further strengthen political interference in the working of the department.

On June 21, Khan Baig, the IGP, wrote a letter to the police across the province with a subject: “Instruction regarding courtesy to elected representatives.”

In the letter, he directed the police officers to give “due respect” to the public representatives when they visit any police station and attend their phone calls on a priority basis. In case a police officer is busy somewhere else, he should respond to the public representatives back immediately afterwards.

Moreover, the IGP directed the police officers in the rank of superintendent to stay for about two hours daily at least in those police stations which have recently been declared as model police stations to attend to the public complaints.

The move by the IGP has raised questions about the kind of reforms Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif wants to introduce. Past experience regarding police reforms have always been unproductive.

The chief minister Punjab, Shahbaz Sharif, consumed five years of his previous tenure pledging to get rid of the “thana culture”.

Can he change the police culture when the IGP is eager to give priority to politicians, clearly drawing a line between the common citizens and influential people?

As far as the second instruction is concerned, none of the SPs are following it in the Rawalpindi district.

When Zahid Hussain Kazmi, a spokesman for the Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf (PTI) chairman, was contacted and asked about the IGP’s instruction relating to public representatives, he said it would further promote political interference in the police working.

He suggested that the IGP should have directed the police to be more responsive and courteous to the public when they approach or call them with a complaint.

Mr Kazmi said the chief minister should take notice of the matter because when a parliamentarian visits a police station, though he deserves due respect, he would influence the police to do some favour to his people.

The CM should constitute a special team to monitor the elected representatives who visit police stations and try to influence the police because it is a government agency which is duty bound to entertain public complaints on merit.

However, if the legislators find any highhandedness on part of the police, they should approach the CM or take up the matter on the floor of the assembly concerned, he added.

A senior superintendent of police (SSP), requesting anonymity, told Dawn that a few days back he received a phone call from a newly-elected parliamentarian of the PML-N.

“Though I immediately attended his call, he asked me to favour his men booked in a brawl case instead of providing justice to the aggrieved party.”

When President Lahore High Court’s Rawalpindi Bar Association, Taufeeq Asif, was asked about the IGP’s instructions, he said the police force had always been under the influence of the government of the day.

He said the IGP’s direction was an additional move to please the politicians which should be implemented under a reasonable parameter otherwise its consequences would be negative.

“There are clear-cut rulings issued by higher courts that all government servants while discharging their duties should keep the law supreme.”

They should not obey unlawful orders even passed by their bosses, he said.

“It would have been more appropriate had the IGP ordered the police officers to entertain the public complaints rather than giving protocol to the elected representatives. We are not against elected members but the real respect should be given to those who have elected them,” said Raja Tariq Mehboob Kiani, a former district nazim of Rawalpindi.

“We are not living in a colonial era when the common citizens should not have direct access to the police without the help of the elites. It is the duty of the police to facilitate the citizens and solve their problems according to the law,” he said.

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