A comprehensive report on “Police Maladministration”, submitted to the Chief Justice of Pakistan, and all the provincial chief justices, has recommended measures to make police “Not for the government, but for the people”.
It has attempted to address the basic issues confronting the people regarding police. It has called for making the police more people-friendly, politically neutral and professional, so that people should have more confidence in the police uniform.
What it required is a will to enforce it and this itself is a big question In a country where even democracy is yet not for the people, by the people and of the people, can the police be for the people and not for the government?
The one liner, ‘Police for the people, and not for the government’ explains it all as to why we have not been able to depoliticise police over the past seven decades, and make it professional.
In provinces like Sindh, instead of moving forward we are going backward, from Police Order, 2002 to Police Act, 1861 and Police Rules, 1934. Some 10 IGPs had been transferred in the last few years and no police officer is sure of its tenure or posting if he is not loyal to the political elite.
The committee, constituted by the CJP, had directed the federal ombudsman to address the issue of “maladministration in police”. The committee comprising retired IGPs, DIGs and several former officers, members of civil society, has not given any strong recommendations as to how to make thana culture more friendly to the people, how to make registration of the FIR simpler, and how to stop political interference.
One of the most important recommendations, out of 14, is the punishment for at least five years, for lodging a false FIR. Another, which if properly implemented, could make a difference is the concept of district complaint commission, headed by a district and sessions judge, and which also includes the area nazim. But, what if the FIR or case is against any member of the commission?
To make 'Thana' more people-friendly, the committee suggested that every police station must have specified and non-transferable budget, but at the same time 'off-the-ground' collection be strictly prohibited and punished. At present, the SHOs are told to run the police stations on their own, as they get very little money. This leads to 'off-the-ground collection' in other words, through corrupt practices to run the police station.
It also suggested that the SHO must be upgraded, its tenure be fixed or in case of transfer or disciplinary action, written justification be given. A complete transparent accountable system be introduced.
It also suggested that instead of too many police stations, it’s better to have few big police stations, with a reasonable and an effective force.
As I got the copy of the report from one of the former IGP, Sindh, and went through it, I got the news that a Sindh High Court bench in Hyderabad dismissed the appeal of the government against the accused, who had been acquitted by the sessions court some 13 years back in one of the worst massacre in Pakistan's history in which 300 people had been killed in less than 10-15 minutes in Hyderabad, on Sept 30, 1988.
It’s not the only high profile case, which normally is closed in such manner and it not only raised big question mark on Investigation, political interference and on our criminal justice system. So, if the accused named in the case were not involved, who had killed these innocent people?
For instance, killing of Mir Murtaza Bhutto, who along with his guards and some party leaders, was killed in a police encounter on Sept 20, 1996. Top police officials, former IB chief, and some 11 constables were arrested in one FIR. In another FIR, a case was registered against Murtaza's guards. After several years of trial, the respective court acquitted both the parties and till this day, it remains a mystery as to who killed Murtaza.
Problems as identified in this report also revealed thatthe police maladministration started with the registration of the FIR, followed by investigation. It has discussed in length how cases are being investigated and due to lack of training and other reasons resulted in failure.
This is the problem which often is noted by the courts that accused gets benefit of doubt and gets relief because of these two factors. But, the report also expressed its concern as to why no notice had been taken of delay in submitting the challan within 15 days, producing the accused within 24 hours, without any valid reasons.
It has also pointed out the problems faced in the pre-investigation stages and how power is abused due to lack of proper accountability mechanism.
Following are some of the specific recommendations of the committee:-
(1) Every FIR related to cognizable offence must be registered
(2) Failure to register FIR, must be reported to Police Access Service
(3) SHO be held responsible for abuse of power. Due consideration among the concerned officers required before the arrest of any person.
(4) An executive magistrate should be revived for speeding justice against abuse of authority.
(5) District Complaint centre, headed by DSJ, comprising four other members including the area nazim.
(6) Five-year imprisonment suggested for lodging a false FIR. Courts should take action under section 182 and 2011 PPC.
(7) Provinces should establish Forensic Service Agencies
(8) Training must be give top priority.
(9) CCTV cameras around and inside police stations, from reporting room to cells be installed and even in police mobiles.
(10) Appointment and posting of SHOs, their tenure, up-gradation and accountability.
(11) Out of turn promotion should not allowed. Transfer, need to be justified before time in writing.
(12) Police Stations must have no transferable budget, which must be sanctioned. Off-the-ground collection of funds must be punished.
(13) Locations of police stations must be reviewed
(14) Complete medical and other facilities be provided to police from constable to higher level.
In the past, several attempts had been made to improve the police system and the last most serious attempt was made in 2001, which resulted in Police Order, 2002. Even in the civilian government in 1988, the then governor of Sindh, retired Justice Fakhruddin G Ebrahim introduced the system of Citizen-Police Liaison Committee (CPLC).
Police Order, 2002, is so far the best system, but even in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, it is not constituted.
The purpose of the CPLC was to address citizen's complaints against the police failure to register the FIR. After getting positive response, its scope was further expanded and its chief and deputy chiefs also given magisterial power.
The CPLC in Karachi played an effective role in addressing the issues of kidnapping for ransom, problems in ‘Superdari’ system, car registration. The founders of the CPLC, Jamil Yusuf and Nazim F Haji, runs it very professionally.
It was formed at a time when law and order situation in Karachi was at its worst and cases of car lifting, kidnapping for ransom were on the rise.
The problems in the rural areas and people mostly avoid 'Thana and Katuchery,' because of non-friendly atmosphere and they knew that the concern SHOs and DSPs were appointed on political basis.
Without bringing police out of political influence and developing it as a force like our civil-armed forces, fixed tenure post, positions and transfer, posting on complete merit, the real fight and success even in operation like 'Raddul Fasad,' may not be possible as police are the only force which existed in each area and Mohalla.
One of the former IGP, Bashir Ahmad Siddiqui, once said: 'The SHO must be held responsible and accountable for any crime in its jurisdiction. It’s not possible that SHO is not aware of criminals in his area. But, if any SHO, has the backing of powerful and influential people.”
The writer is the senior columnist and analyst of GEO, The News and Jang