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The police we need

Pakistan needs to move beyond Police Order 2002 and adopt a more imaginative approach

The police we need
The police culture and its image in popular perception need to change altogether.

The police and policing are absent in Pakistan. The prevailing no-law-or-order indicates that there is a huge mismatch between the policing we need and the police we have.

Police have been made absent over the years by the civil bureaucracy, politicians and dominance of the military on internal security. The current police have been rendered socially unfit and alien, structurally weak and vulnerable, and operationally neither effective nor efficient.

Police as an organisation is battered — its leadership and the outside forces and interests have continually stunted its internal reform. Mere material support — sophisticated arms, personnel, vehicles and increased salaries — do not make presence of police more effective. To get improved outcomes from an essential public service, we need a new design, different processes of recruitment, training and governance, and a different approach to policing.

Politicians and political governments, democratic or autocratic, have abused police to an extent that it is socially ostracised and seen as the reason of all that is wrong in Pakistan. So, while a khaki gets a salute from a Joe on the street, a poor policeman only get a hoot, despite his arduous efforts and visible hard work to keep order.

To add insult to injury, many citizens are resorting to private security, which in a way is unofficial paramilitary presence. Incidentally, the public spending on police is increasing, regardless of efficiency or effectiveness. We see police peeping into vehicles at security barriers, disrupting traffic for VIPs, escorting VIPs and coming hard on the poor who indulge in petty offences.

Police need to do none of these duties and do not deserve the fatalities it bears as a routine. It is thus time to redesign policing from a hated force to a fit and affable public institution.

Our current police were founded on the colonial Police Act of 1861. The social, political, administrative, cultural, management and technological dynamics have drastically changed in the 150 years. Policing at that time was meant to be a coercive and controlling practice with paramilitary look and feel. Since then they have only perfected how not to police.

There have been many efforts to reform police since 1947. But there have been more successful efforts to stall many well meaning and much required reforms.

The first successful effort to kill a reform was impeding the Bill XXV of 1948 in Sindh Assembly, which aimed to establish a modern police force in Karachi. The next was shelving initiative of Sir Oliver Gilbert Grace in 1951. There had been over two-dozen serious efforts to reform and improve policing — till the Police Order of 2002.

The Order underwent several defanging revisions. Many argue that PO 2002 was the best and the most comprehensive take on making police a better service, and, therefore, ought to be given a chance.

However, this piece argues that we need to move beyond PO 2002 and adopt a more imaginative approach.

Given the incumbent federal and Punjab governments are averse to any or many of the ‘right’ things General Musharraf attempted, there will be more resistance to reform PO 2002, than propose a new bill on police.

Taking this opportunity, we may envision a police in consonance with the spirit of the 18th Amendment and compatible with the forthcoming local governments.

The history of police reforms in countries where police is considered friendly to its citizens, we see that successful police reforms have a correlation with democratic maturity, elected representatives’ supervision and oversight, and the community’s active and affable engagement with police.

There are generally two routes to reform. One is transactional, that moves through piecemeal tweaking of rules and practices. This has been tried in Pakistan to repetitive failures. The other, a transformative route, unfolds in a gradual manner but is a part of larger vision and long-term plan. Pakistan’s experiment of motorway policing is a small but significant example. However given the limited functions of motorway police, the prototype cannot be extended to the main but more complex police — that must adjust to varied social, political and institutional realities. Here technology and imagination may make the job easier.

To have a system that fits the multifaceted diversity of Pakistan, we need regional police setups, which will require doing away with central recruitment of the officer class. Intelligence gathering can be nationally coordinated and the federal police can be drawn from the provincial and regional police services.

Currently, there are too many intake channels — the Central Superior Services, deputation from army, the ASI level intake, the constable level intake, and random deputations under the infamous Section 10 (the Arslan Iftikhar route). All of such entrants have different motives to join police. Different tiers and layers have caused internal apartheid, organisational discordant and institutional incoherence of the police.

There should be only two levels of intake — the basic entry level for those that hope to become officers with no job experience and manifest excellence; and the other for those officers that wish to start at the inspector level, and in role and status equal to the current ASP.

The new police service must be sharply distinct and radically different from institutional ethos, approach and outlook of the military. Military’s main function is to deal with external (real or perceived) enemy. The best thing it knows is to eventually ‘kill’ the enemy and ‘resolve’ the issue. Police’s main interface is with its own ilk; to save and protect lives, its own and of others at any cost.

Symbolically, a new outlook is needed with new uniform and new incentive structures.

The culture and image of police need to be changed altogether. For instance, thaanas may be renamed as the community support centres. These centres can house cafés and libraries on the premise so that young boys and girls frequent them and thus a new generation grows with a new image and experience of police. Such centres may only receive complaints and provide varied information to citizens. The inmates must not be detained here. Transit jails ought to be away from such centres and the public eye.

The police recruitment and training need to change as well. Technology can help in more efficient intelligence and pre-empting crimes. Along with fit and sturdy bodies, policemen and women need to have healthy, fit, perceptive and full of wit minds. We must have 40 per cent women in the new police service.

Police’s internal accountability mechanisms need to be stronger and fluent, and may incorporate citizens. Only after these are exhausted, the external entities may step in. Citizens’ incorporation at station level needs to be drawn from the immediate neighbourhoods, instead of nominal, elitist inclusion at the top.

Lastly, in the new police service we need to ensure that we have the right persons for the right job who are offered right set of incentives and the right set of training.

There has not been a better time to institute a new police than now. When police is absent, citizens suffer. Therefore the citizens need to push for a better and present police for their own sake.

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