After deliberations spanning many years, the Punjab police has changed its traditional uniform — khaki trousers and charcoal black shirt to an olive green outfit.
The Punjab police got a new look on March 23, after 59 long years. The last change was made in 1958 when the army took over. Under an executive order, overnight, the shirt was changed from khaki to black — so people could tell the difference between a police and an army official.
So far, around 50,000 new uniforms have been distributed in the first phase, and mostly in Lahore. The other districts of the province will get their share of uniforms in phases and as supplies arrive.
The change in Punjab police uniform has evoked a mixed response. Some think it is a step taken without much research or feedback from policemen or people. Others feel that the new uniform looks far less daunting than the previous one and also the design and stitching is of much better quality. Still others think the new uniform does not help in creating a people-friendly image for the police.
Senior police officials think the change was needed for the black uniform was uncomfortable to wear in summers as it absorbed too much heat.
The main criticism against the old uniform is that it hugged the body too tight and enhanced the protruding belly. But didn’t flaunting their pot belly give them a sense of pride?
The new uniform is loose and allows the policemen on field duty to not tuck in the shirt. “The fabric is wash ‘n’ wear and doesn’t need to be starched,” says a police constable.
He adds that people are still not familiar with their new look, and do not stop when signalled to do so. But, he asserts, this is a temporary phenomenon and people will register them with time. “After all, the man in this uniform is the same as before.”
One grade 18 officer in Punjab police is not sure if the new uniform will keep them cool in summers. “If the black shirt absorbed heat the dark olive will do the same.”
“The new uniform has been introduced after a long exercise spanning good two years with special focus on research and development,” says Humayun Bashir Tarar, Assistant Inspector General (AIG) Logistics, Punjab Police. “There were testing phases in which different designs in different colours were provided to policemen in limited quantity and the best one was approved, depending on its suitability to the local weather and dusty environment.”
“In the final phase,” he adds, “two uniforms — navy blue and olive green were tested near an under-construction site along the Orange Line route, and it was found that the dust particles showed more on navy blue than on olive green.”
Sarmad Saeed, former Additional Inspector General of Police, Punjab, says during his final days in service a similar plan was vetoed by a senior police officer. “His point,” he says, “was that the traditional police uniform inspired awe and fear among citizens that the new one would not. So the plan was shelved”.
Saeed thinks the colour or at least the shade of the shirt should have been different from the trouser. “Also, the uniform should be the same across the country as they go from provinces to province for raids etc. A different uniform may pose a risk.”
Amir Farooq, a small business owner in Lahore, says that at first sight they look like they’re representing some private security agency. “When given a closer look, they resemble Indian policemen because the colour of their uniform is almost the same.”
He finds it hard to relate to the new uniform as he has seen the old one on roads, in films, in newspapers and in tv plays throughout his lifetime.
Tarar clarifies that contrary to the general perception the olive green colour has not been adopted from abroad. It is the colour of the overcoat that has always been a part of the police uniform. “The new fabric is 60 per cent cotton and 40 per cent polyester with additional features like moisture management and air permeability added to it. As air will pass through it easily, the person wearing it will feel comfortable.”
He asserts, “It is the first time that every policeman from the rank of constable to IG will be wearing the same uniform stitched at the same factory.”
Earlier the police department would buy cloth that was stitched in the police lines, and “the quality would be poor. Senior officers would buy better cloth and get it stitched themselves from better tailors.”
The cost of the new uniform is Rs1,900, which is “less than the cost of similar uniform provided to other security forces of the country,” says Tarar.
Amid all this debate, the social media is abuzz with news of different types including the one about alleged preference given to one bidder — Nishat Group. A large number of people have shared images of labels, carrying the name of Nishat Mills, on Facebook and questioned the transparency of the deal.
“Such doubts are totally out of place. The Nishat Mills has been supplying old uniforms to police for years as well as producing uniforms of the Pakistan Army and other paramilitary forces. Those raising this issue think they are supplying it for the first time,” Tarar says, continuing that Nishat Mills and Arshad Textiles were the two parties that qualified out of four for the bid and contested with each other. “Their samples were first tested and approved for quality and the one with lower bid got the order.”
“For orders above Rs100 million,” he says, “there has to be a prequalification and in this case only those parties were allowed to bid that owned spinning, weaving, dying and stitching units — all at the same time.”
No doubt, the police is always under the scanner of the citizens. That is why the uniform change here has created so much debate. The senior officials of Punjab police question as to why the three-time change in uniform of the Pakistan Army, twice of Pakistan Rangers and the Airport Security Force (ASF) have not been noticed and only they are facing the heat.