Policing in Conflict: Towards Better Policing in Pakistan
Poor policing lies at the heart of the deteriorating security environment in Pakistan. Reform of the police must therefore also lie at the heart of the peace process. But what are the challenges confronting the reform process in Pakistan? What are the factors impeding effective policing? How effective has been the police response to security threats?
To address these questions, CHRI organized a two-day workshop in Islamabad in collaboration with Individualland and the Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives (CPDI). The proceedings of the workshop will be published in the form of an online report by the end of 2011.
The workshop began with a session on the problems with policing and a discussion over the factors that impede effective policing in the country. The foremost concern expressed by the participants was the level of politicisation in the police and the lack of operational independence. The most glaring example of this is the frequent transfers and postings of police officers, most often before the expiry of their term. This not only affects the efficiency of policing but also demotivates police personnel. The other instance of politicisation can be seen in the quality of the recruitment process. Selections to the police institution are deeply influenced by patronage rather than on merit. This was attributed to weaknesses in the Police Act, 1861 which was operational till 2002, and failed to include adequate checks and balances against misuse.
The 2002 Police Order on the other hand, included strong accountability mechanisms to ensure the neutrality of policing, country-wide. However, the Order was never implemented in its true spirit despite wide scale support from within the police leadership. A lively discussion ensued on the various challenges, and problems with, reform initiatives in Pakistan. The most formidable challenge is the tension between federal control versus provincial autonomy. Although policing is a provincial subject in Pakistan, the Police Order 2002 was a federal legislation introduced by President Musharraf. This is mainly the ground on which provinces are reluctant to implement its various provisions, and Sindh and Balochistan have actually brought back the 1861 Police Act. The rollback of the Order, and the conflict between the 1861 Act and recent amendments to the CrPC (such as dilution of the post of executive magistracy [i] ) has created a legal vacuum at a time when the police are being called upon to play an increasing role in the battle against terrorism.
At the workshop, several factors that were identified that impede effective policing included a lack of will and a lack of support within the armed forces for police reforms; lack of incentives within the police organization towards better and lawful policing; the predominance of culture over law in society, leading to reluctance on part of the police to take action against customs that go against the law; lack of a multidisciplinary approach to problem solving; and lack of flow of knowledge both among the officials and the public.
Not surprisingly, in response to burgeoning security threats, Pakistan has enacted several anti-terrorism and special security legislations with the objective of providing speedy justice to victims of terrorism. These laws significantly enhance the coercive powers of police such as that of arrest, search and seizure, investigation techniques, and use of force. But they have generally proved to be ineffective. In a recent report of the Ministry of Interior, since 1990, there have been 800 incidents of terrorism of which 475 have actually been prosecuted. In these cases, out of 2200 that were arrested, 1650 have been acquitted by the court due to lack of evidence. Speedy justice aside, these laws have only perpetrated a culture of violent, unaccountable policing and have severely hampered civil liberties and rule of law.
With this backdrop, discussion then moved into what better policing should look like. The components ranged from a helpful, friendly, approachable, responsive police organization to one that is accountable, lawful, fair, just and upholders of human rights. These components as listed out by participants were then juxtaposed with principles of democratic policing practiced in other jurisdictions as well as enshrined in the Police Order 2002.
Having laid down the problems with policing that exists in Pakistan and what better policing should look like, the question then was how to move towards it. The session started with lessons that can be drawn from the experience of Northern Ireland, another example of policing in conflict. Ms Aideen Gilmore, an independent consultant on policing, gave a brief overview of the conflict before dwelling upon the lessons that can be drawn on police reforms. Specifically, she highlighted the importance of police reforms for any peace process. Policing in Northern Ireland was also very militarised, repressive and unaccountable, thereby fuelling tensions in society. It was crucial therefore that police reforms be a key component of the peace process. Moreover, given the excesses committed by the police of Northern Ireland, it was equally crucial that human rights be placed at the heart of policing, both as a principle and as practice. The biggest lesson from the anti-terrorism regime introduced in Northern Ireland has been that such laws prove to be counter-productive (such laws perpetrated massive violation of human rights and worked to further radicalise communities), acquire a permanent status (once introduced, it is very hard to get rid of the special laws), and shatter the faith in the criminal justice system.
These realizations, both within the Northern Ireland and British government, heralded a new phase of policing as enunciated in the report of the Independent Commission on Policing headed by Chris Patten. The accountability mechanisms and principles laid down in the report paved way for better policing, one that is more accountable, professional, responsive and efficient. Apart from political will, civil society played a crucial role in the process by monitoring the functioning of the independent bodies established for police accountability. Public consultations were an integral part of the Patten report and thus were recognized as the basis of the process of police reforms.
It is this experience that was most relevant to the workshop, as civil society grapples with the challenge of police reform. That there is recognition of their role is evident in the formation of a Consortium on Democratic Policing formed in mid-2011 involving several civil society organizations such as Rozan, Shehri, CPDI, Aurat foundation and SPARC. Among its foremost task has been to advocate for a better police law in light of the lack of support for the Police Order 2002 (still in force in Punjab and Khyber Pakthunkhwa) and of the recent move by Sindh and Balochistan to bring back the 1861 Police Act. A lively discussion ensued on issues around which the Consortium can focus its advocacy. Some of the issues highlighted include the role of external oversight bodies, politicisation of the police, and monitoring of the recruitment process. The Consortium members also shared their experiences in holding public consultations in Balochistan on the components of a good police law. It was finally agreed that the Consortium needs to adopt a multi-disciplinary approach to research on policing issues, and simultaneously also play a greater role in monitoring of police accountability mechanisms.
 The 1861 Act revolves around the District Magistrate as opposed to the Executive Magistrate.
South Asia Visiting Programme III, An Overview
Posted By : Devyani Srivastava,CHRI
CHRI organised its third annual South Asia Visiting Programme from 10-15 October 2011 on the subject of police reforms. The objective of the programme is to strengthen regional network on better policing by, firstly, promoting and nurturing debate on police accountability, and second, by fostering closer ties between like-minded people engaged with the police in their respective countries. This was accomplished by bringing together eight participants – two each from Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and the Maldives – to Delhi and holding meetings with key stakeholders such as independent oversight bodies, activists, lawyers and paralegals. The participants were:
|Mohammad Nashath||Program Coordinator, Maldivian Democracy Network|
|Aminath Ahmed||Assistant Legal Officer,Legal Department,HRCM|
|Imam Uddin||Deputy Director, NHRC|
|Adv. Qazi Zahed Iqbal||Attorney, BLAST|
|Peerzada Sayyed A Safi||Program Coordinator, Rabta Police Training program, Rozan|
|Muhammad Anwar||Program Manager, Centre for Peace and Development Initiative|
|Chathura Galhena||Attorney at Law, Institute of Democracy and Leadership|
Meetings were held on topics such as principles of democratic policing, legislative reform, human rights training of the police, strategic litigation and police accountability, and the use of RTI for police accountability. Each of the meetings touched upon latest trends and developments in India along with the persistent challenges. The main idea was to highlight practices on police accountability and facilitate an exchange of information on similar practices in the region with a view to drawing lessons from each other’s experiences. The agenda was as follows:
Interaction with CHRI
The Visiting Programme started with a day-long interaction with the police team at CHRI. Discussions revolved around the theme of democratic policing and the challenges confronting its realization in the region. Attention was specially laid on the work of legislative critiques of draft police legislations being introduced by various states in India and the related advocacy work. This theme found resonance with the team because each of the country in the region either has a draft police bill yet to be implemented or a recently passed legislation which however do not include adequate safeguards against violations. Many participants, however, shared their concern regarding the prevailing political environment and the suitability of advocating for legal reform. Instead, they argued in favour of selecting few themes, such as operational responsibility among police officers, and advocating around that.
Interaction with Abha Singhal Joshi, human rights lawyer
Meeting with Ms Abha Joshi was held on the issue of human rights training of the police. The session touched upon both content and the methodology of training. Regarding content, it was stressed that working with the training modules and syllabus of police academies is the most advisable way of making inroad. Dismissing the existing syllabus will not help. One has to think of ways in which to use the same training material but in innovative ways. Usually officers are familiar with the basic laws of the country but not of the judicial interventions and case law. This is where the gap lies and requires knowledge building. This is where the potential for changing or challenging a particular view point and way of thinking lies. Regarding methodology, there is a desperate need in the subcontinent as a whole to change the lecture format. More interactive methods need to be introduced.
Interaction with NHRC
We interacted with the investigation team at the NHRC headed by Director General Sunil Krishna. Mr Krishna’s team introduced the various units within their investigation team and showcased some of the major investigations carried out by the NHRC such as the fact finding report on the Salwa Judum. A lot of the discussion also revolved on the various ways in which the NHRC spreads awareness about its various guidelines and its various outreach initiatives.
Interaction with Ms Vrinda Grover, Human Rights Lawyer
The session with Ms Vrinda Grover touched upon the issue of police accountability, the main trends and challenges in India. She pointed out that a worrying development in the region has been lesser regards and compliance with due process. The police today often resort to violence as the first resort itself, unlike the standard of last resort. The excessive reliance and use of force is further compounded by the institutional bias against minorities in India, most starkly evident in Gujarat pogrom in 2002 and more recently across the Naxal-belt. Any form of protest today is being violently crushed or obstructed by law enforcement agencies. Under the garb of terrorism and security challenges, rule of law is getting severely compromised.
Interaction with the Nagrik Adhikar Kendra, Kalol, Gujarat
An interaction was scheduled with the members of the Nagrik Adhikar Kendra. NAK is a paralegal centre based in Kalol, Panchmahal district, of Gujarat and was helped set up by CHRI. The centre carries out legal awareness programs through various means such as holding workshops, awareness camps and mela, newsletter and through the local press. The objective of the interaction was to introduce the South Asian delegates to awareness work at grassroots. Additionally, the centre also works closely with the “Friends of Police”, a group of people appointed by the state government to act as liaison officers with the community.
The South Asia team interacted with the members of the centre to learn about their work, activities and challenges confronted by them. The team also attended the one-day awareness mela being organised by the centre on various government schemes and constitutional rights of citizens. Various stalls were set up to display information about laws such as the RTI and other government schemes such as the NREGA, Indira Awas Yojana and so on. There was also one stall on basic rights of citizens vis-à-vis the police. The centre has prepared pamphlets on FIR, bail and detention, arrest and so on that were being sold at the mela. The team also interacted with one of the member of the “Friends of Police” group to learn more about the initiative and how it was being carried out.
Interaction with Venkatesh Nayak, RTI Coordinator, CHRI
This meeting focused on the RTI campaign in India. Venkat gave an overview of the civil society campaign for the RTI law, drawing examples of successful lobbying strategies and tactics.
Interaction with Trideep Pais, constitutional and human rights lawyer
Trideep provided an assessment of the criminal justice system as a whole, emphasising on the need for greater sensitisation and training of lawyers and judges on human rights and rule of law. India has seen some very good legislations but their implementation remains weak. To overcome this, there is a need to spread more awareness, deepen debate and address loopholes in government administration. Among the landmark judgments touched upon by Trideep include the Andhra Pradesh High Court judgment on encounter killings that lays down a strong framework against such killings. Such judgments strengthen the fabric of constitutional democracy and serve as useful documents for similar debates across the region.
The programme touched upon various aspects of police reform including legal reform, policy advocacy, police trainings, capacity building and networking. The idea was to provide a holistic view of police accountability, and ways in which laws and/or policies impinge upon it. Only upon identification of the problem areas, can advocacy for reform can be structured and planned.