BY: Saeed Ahmed Ali
LAHORE, Feb 05 (APP): Despite repeated plans and strategies, police performance across the country especially in remote areas had been deteriorating over the period, badly shattering the masses’ confidence.
People are frequently seen complaining of bribery, nepotism, negligence of duty and political interference in the police service as these ills proved to be lethal for a force already facing the challenges of improper training, obsolete equipment and paucity of funds.
Seeing through the annals of history, the police department was established in the sub-continent as an imperial force by the British regime, in the aftermath of the 1857 war of Independence, to coerce people rather than protecting them.
After the partition in 1947, Pakistan inherited a police infrastructure founded on the Police Act of 1861, a framework that provides an unaccountable, authoritative and oppressive police force. These laws remained in vogue till 2002, when finally, a new reform-oriented police order was promulgated.
But, even the reformed police fell short of generating desired results of being people-friendly while its structure, despite repeated amendments and modifications of the Police Order, is still on way to comprehension.
The Supreme Court of Pakistan (SCP) lawyer Safdar Shaheen Pirzada says that the country at present has a dual criminal justice system – the federal criminal justice system and the provincial criminal justice system.
“As far as the criminal justice system is concerned, criminal procedure, criminal law and the law of evidence are concurrent subjects for legislation within the scheme procedure of the constitution regarding its articles 142 and 143,” he said.
When asked about vitality of reforming police force, he said, if implemented efficiently, the reforms could have improved existing police system to effectively support counterterrorism and counterinsurgency measures and mitigating extremism in the society.
Advocating need for an efficient police force, former MPA Sajid Bhatti said although police had somehow succeeded in countering some extremist groups in Punjab and defeated insurgency-like situations in Karachi, yet revamping it on modern lines was still required.
“When we extend them full political support and make available required resources, police performs efficiently,” he claimed.
“Their prime duty is to protect victims and potential victims by nabbing offenders through legal procedures and enforcing laws and procedures.”
But, he contested that political interference, bribery culture and favoritism not only badly affect their performance but also help encourage outlaws to target innocent citizens.
“Therefore, it shared responsibility of the senior police officials as well as the politicians to ensure a transparent mechanism for desired police performance.”
Professor Hassan Abbas, a senior advisor at the Harvard Kennedy School Belfer Center and Bernard Schwartz Fellow at Asia Society, New York, has also pleaded major restructuring in police force.
Dr Hassan Abbas who also holds the Quaid-i-Azam Chair at South Asia Institute of Columbia University has recently submitted his research report-‘A Vision for a Better Future and a Roadmap for Getting There,’ on improving police infrastructure in the country.
“We need to remove obstacles on way to upgrading the existing police system in Pakistan,” he said and recommended traditional and innovative reform options.
There is a dire need for restructuring the civilian law enforcement infrastructure as it was vital for effectively improving police performance.”
Paucity of funds, lack of training on modern lines to curb crimes and usual lethargy had resulted in colossal losses to this force during war against terrorism and by the common outlaws.
Meanwhile, the office of the DIG Operations Lahore has claimed a visible decrease in crime rate during the month of January arresting thousands of suspects and proclaimed offenders during raids and combing operations across Punjab province.
It stated to arrest 720 accused from 255 gangs besides tracing 3,177 stolen vehicles and valuables worth Rs14293,881 claiming 30 percent reduction in vehicle and bike theft calls and 19 percent decline in theft calls.
However, despite tall claims by the police force, the general perception of poor policing prevails among the masses as noble and respectable citizens most often shying away to approach police for redressal of their problems.
Perception of police in our society is that of a corrupt and subjugation squad instead of a people-friendly, efficient and honest force. Even retired police officials strongly advocate its revamping and putting it on modern lines to get desired results.
“In view of the prevailing approaches and attitudes in the police force, there is minimal hope for masses to get better services from this police department in near future,” remarked Munib Hashmi, a retired police officer.
“Since purity and efficiency of the criminal justice system largely depend on police who feed the system, the future seems to be bleak for criminal justice in general,” he added.
People often blame the force for their lethargic conduct and negligence. But, there are other important issues as well like wages and equipment provided the police personnel.
So, if they are less paid and poorly trained to combat the criminals who possess sophisticated weapons, how can one expect extraordinary performance from Police and mix up honest and efficient officials with the corrupt?
Therefore, the political and police authorities direly need to revisit the structure, facilities, duties and lapses to make it a respectable force that ensures safety and security of the common people.