Welcome to the Spring 2012 edition of the Network for Improved Policing in South Asia (NIPSA)’s E-Newsletter. This is our first edition after a brief hiatus, and we believe the articles enclosed in this E-Newsletter give a broad flavour of the issues related to police reforms present in our region in the past few months. We are pleased to report that a wide range of topics have been covered in this quarter.
Gulmina Bilal writes on gender and policing in Pakistan, examining the history of women serving in the Pakistani police, touching upon the debate about whether separate police stations are required for women. As one can imagine, the general perception of women choosing policing as a career and its implications on family and society at large is a source of discussion in the country. The article also touches upon some of the problems that plague policing in Pakistan in general, such as archaic legislation, a low police-population ratio, and the fact that there are only about 3,500 women officers in a total force of 400,000! The message is clear. Regionally, we must all advocate for gender-sensitive police reforms.:
Another issue we all consistently find ourselves revisiting in South Asia is the call for greater police accountability. Two articles address this in this edition of NIPSA. Devika Prasad writes on the UK’s new system of electing a police and crime commissioner (PCC) to provide oversight of local police forces. This new system is worrisome as the author points out – because it means the present local Police Authorities which are multi-member bodies providing external oversight of the police as opposed to a single elected individual. Her article analyses the drawbacks of such a shift and then poses the important question of whether such a shift would work in the South Asian context, where we can probably all agree there is a dire need for accountability stemming from strengthened external independent oversight.
Taking the discussion on this issue further, this edition also includes a short write up on a recent national level roundtable hosted by Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative held in Delhi. This unique roundtable brought together for the first time police leadership, chairpersons and members of police oversight bodies in India, and civil society. Discussions were centered on how to strengthen and build the capacity of these bodies, known as Police Complaints Authorities (PCAs). Presently, there are eight such Authorities set up on the ground level. A set of Model Rules were introduced to help these bodies operate in a uniform manner and meet their mandate as effectively as possible. Input was sought from the various stakeholders. The ultimate goal was to ensure these Rules were adapted by each Authority, and recommendations made to governments on how to fortify and support these bodies in order to reduce misconduct and increase police accountability.
Speaking of accountability, the manner in which the Sri Lankan government is fighting accountability recently is unacceptable. It has made it clear that it will not abide by the UNHRC resolution that criticized its human rights record. The government will only implement those recommendations of its own probing panel. CHRI Director Maja Daruwala writes on the subject, emphasizing that while the resolution itself is a step towards justice in many ways, there is much left to be done on the part of the international community before justice is in fact realised in the country.
The Maldives too has undergone significant developments since the beginning of the year with the resignation of the first democratically elected President, Mohamed Nasheed, on 7 February 2010. The resignation followed weeks of protest after Nasheed ordered the army to detain a top criminal court judge on corruption charges. In the protests that ensued, the police role has come into question with serious charges of atrocities committed by several officers on rampage. While these are being investigated by the new government, Devyani Srivastava raises questions about its implications for the police reform process in the country.
Lastly, though our readership is growing steadily, we call upon you once again to take steps to expand our network and get more involved. We are always looking for articles and would like to engage in debate. Please do feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com for further questions, comments, and suggestions.
I look forward to our next edition!