The government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has rolled out a five-year roadmap of development focusing on reforming governance, strengthening federation, revitalising economic growth, uplifting agriculture and conserving water.
Inspired by Prime Minister Imran Khan’s vision, the initiatives developed for revamping criminal justice are aligned with the previous KP government’s Rule of Law (RoL) Roadmap are the evidence of institutionalised planning and development. I passionately advocate a comprehensive and uniform management model, which should be linked upward from district to provincial departments and to the office of the chief minister, examples of which can be vividly seen in the province.
The five-year plan talks about a cost scheme manifesting accurate planning and management for human, financial and technical resources in line with the activities aiming to achieve higher level objectives. This approach will allow a simple spreadsheet analysis for the distribution and consolidation of tasks and resources within departments.
Where the KP RoL Roadmap has provided the basis for five-year planning, it has also handed a mechanism for periodic performance management based on a set of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for each RoL institution in each district and the province. For tracking the progress and performance management of key priority areas, a Strategic Support Unit (SSU) has been functioning as a part of the Chief Minister’s Secretariat. It has initiated the process of designing, implementing and conducting the mechanism for data collection and analysis of Rule of Law KPIs and seeking the chief minister’s action on; a) Law/policy reforms including standards, rules and performance frameworks; b) performance against RoL Roadmap Indicators; c) Staffing and structural reforms in each RoL department and d) planning and tracking of ongoing and new initiatives approved under the Annual Development Programme (ADP).
The SSU approach does make sense but it needs to be institutionalised as a robust delivery mechanism for the provincial government to facilitate RoL reforms. For this purpose, a Delivery Committee notified by the chief minister should ensure engagement of the secretaries from Planning and Development, Finance, Law and Home and heads of criminal justice institutions. Based on the distributed KPIs, the heads of police, prosecution, prisons and probation will be invited to report the progress on agreed frequency and schedule. Such a forum will be useful to discuss and address cross-institutional matters as well. The SSU should develop departments’ capacities and establish mechanisms for data collection and analysis to make the system operational.
Since the judiciary does not come under the executive, its performance management needs different but parallel arrangements on a similar model headed by the Chief Justice of the Peshawar High Court. KP Judicial Academy may help generate analysis and pieces of evidence required to support informed decisions on the dispensation of justice by the courts. Provincial Justice Committee, too, allows dealing with cross-institutional and coordination issues within key justice sector institutions.
The success of the delivery system revolves around internal accountability mechanisms of primary justice institutions. Other than the judiciary, these include home, police, prosecution, prisons and reclamation & probation and prosecution departments. The Home Department may take lead in developing a basic system and capacitating each department for internal review and reporting based on KPIs. Custodianship of KPIs by each department is critical in the functioning of the overall SSU-based delivery model. KPIs also refer to institutional development based on ongoing assessment and monitoring by sufficient staff having professional capacities and supported by appropriate policies and systems.
The reform process also demands a built-in accountability mechanism for which complaint redress mechanisms will have to be promoted through effective public-state institutions’ communication channels. Some key issues and priority areas to be considered by each criminal justice institution are as follows.
Judiciary: The institution faces huge backlogs. Due to increasing case pendency (72,012 in KP), the courts have not been able to evoke the trust of citizens especially the poor and vulnerable. The institution should adopt new case management rules and track the performance for its full compliance by the courts aiming for the dispensation of justice in a timely manner.
Police: People expect police to curb crime and ensure safety in public and personal spaces. In order to fulfil the expectations, the institution needs to have a reasonable allocation of resources, especially in investigation e.g. efficiency enhancement through supporting police stations across the province and establishing the forensic science laboratory. In criminal cases, police is a primary institution for victims seeking immediate justice. The way the police treats a victim impacts the trust level between citizens and police as an institution. In order to appropriately facilitate people in such situations, the standards for special measures need to be improved and adopted.
Pakistan, including Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, has one of the lowest police-to-population ratios in the world. The police strength should increase to meet international standards and provide effective policing. The service structure, pay and privileges of KP police need to be reviewed and brought at least on a par with those in other provinces. There is a need to build capacity in the provision of victim support services specifically through increasing female staff strength in police stations. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has 285 police stations in districts and the strength of women police in all ranks is only 683 and that too not evenly distributed among districts and police stations.
Prosecution is the spine of the judicial system. The key performance indicators for this department are high conviction achievement, reduction in the number of adjournments sought by the prosecution in trials and an increase in successful appeals against decisions/orders. This institution requires significant institutional reforms as the numbers of prosecutors in general and female prosecutors, in particular, are significantly low.
There are 325 courts in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa but only 222 public prosecutors employed with the KP Prosecution Service (KPPS). Also, there is no senior female prosecutor in grades 18 and 19 in KP. A reason for people not taking cases involving gender-based violence to courts is the lack of women prosecutors. Female witnesses feel hesitant to appear in the court and quit from the cases before or during a trial.
Prisons are extremely overcrowded, ignoring rehabilitation and encouraging recidivism among criminals. No rehabilitation strategy for prisoners is in place, which means prisons are geared for custody and control of prisoners but not for their rehabilitation. The performance of this institution should be judged through a reduction in re-offending in the ex-prisoners as well as their reintegration in the society with the ambition to live peacefully and productively. Another area could be a reduction in complaints of maltreatment made by prisoners and their relatives.
Reclamation and Probation: Despite extreme overcrowding, legal provisions for probation during sentencing and parole following conviction are severely under-used. The documentation of Social Investigation Report is not mandatory and is mostly filled on demand of the judge. The government has announced a project for the rehabilitation and reintegration of probationers through the provision of skill development opportunities. If the project is implemented successfully, it will help reduce overcrowding as well as the number of re-offending cases.
Home Department: In the context of RoL Roadmap implementation, the performance of Home Department should be assessed on two tracks; 1) Address the cross-institutional issues of police, prosecution, prisons and reclamation and probation, and 2) Facilitate them with legislative and policy reforms required for improved functioning. The priority areas have already been identified in the KP RoL Roadmap.
Concluding the whole discussion, the direction set through the KP RoL Roadmap provides a golden opportunity for the provincial government in its second tenure to translate the idea into implementation and make a difference.