So depolitization of police is the talk of the town nowadays. From the army chief declaring to depoliticize the Sindh Police for peace in Karachi to CM Balochistan Dr. Abdul Malik saying the same for Baluchistan Police. But in the discussion about depoliticization one hardly, if ever, sees any references to the remarkable example set by PTI leadership in KP – and Imran Khan – who has consistently led the call for depoliticizing institutions such as the police in Pakistan.
What the army chief is trying to attempt in Karachi, PTI has already accomplished in KP – that is a police force which is operationally independent of any political influence. So how has this been achieved? It’s simple – a high level decision by the political leadership to give complete charge to the IG of the province (see video below) – whose reputed to be among the most credible police officers of Pakistan. But if you look at Punjab, Sindh and perhaps Baluchistan it becomes not-so-simple. The top bosses in each province are not strong enough or not willing enough to end political interference in transfers, postings and operations of the police.
How does that affect overall policing and rule of law? One doesn’t have to be a genius to figure this out. The idea that the police bosses are under the influence of political bosses instead of solely the law of the land is antithetical to the whole concept of rule of law. A police force rife with politically appointed or transferred officers can never be the upholders of the law especially in the case of the rich and the powerful who often find refuge with many of our politicians. Sure, some criminals will be caught, normal policing may continue, but a politicized police force will never be able to take a stand against the high and the mighty and so will never be able to command trust and respect of the general public.
So coming back to KP, what has PTI exactly achieved there? Depoliticization of the police has had several “side effects” if you may. The first has been the effect on corruption in the force. IG KP has proved by his actions that he’s not only a man of integrity himself but also has the ability to ensure the same in the force. More than three hundred officers of all ranks have been dismissed from service on corruption charges – and only after a process of a preliminary and then a proper inquiry. Action is taken against any slight report of corruption or bribery by the IG himself – though recently this authority has been devolved to the level of DPOs as well.
In a recent case of a media report of bribes taken by some police officers, prompt identification was made (within few days) and appropriate action taken. This can be contrasted with a case of Punjab Police – where bribe was demanded from CM KP himself on a visit to Punjab – widely disseminated by PTI leadership during the dharna days. One is yet to hear of what action was taken, if any, by the Punjab Police in that particular case.
Unhindered or troubled by political interference, KP Police has also in the past year embarked on doing what they should be doing – that is enhancing their capacity and training to counter the challenge of terrorism especially in a front-line province such as KP. There was a good emphasis on safety of policemen – esp after increasing incidents of target killing on the same. We also saw a focus on establishment of specialized training schools to build the capacity of KP Police in terms of investigation, intelligence, explosives handling, even public disorder management – which seems much needed but unheard of in a country where “police gardi” is notorious.
Led by IG KP, there have been serious realistic proposals to counter terrorism in the province which is the biggest challenge at this point. Some of these are still pending with the Federal Govt since they relate to the tribal areas or require federal approval, but some have been implemented such as new legislation for enhancing monitoring of rented places, hotels and measures to ensure vulnerable places in the province take some responsibility for their security as well. It is interesting to note, after the National Action Plan against terrorism was approved, Punjab govt copied in toto some of these laws in their own province as well. KP has built up its Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) and now a special elite squad for commando action in case of terrorist attacks in the province.
The KP Bomb Disposal Unit (BDU) has been strengthened and their allowances increased – while expanding them to other districts of the province. Suffice to say, the BDU plays an essential role in saving lives by defusing hundreds of bombs every year – sometimes several in a single day. Police pays in general were also increased soon after PTI came into power – but only after the process of weeding out the corrupt had been started.
KP Police has also been striving to introduce internal accountability. Recently they introduced an SMS based complaint system for any kind of complaint or service – including registration of FIR. This was the first of its kind in any province (which was introduced province wide). A better complaint system has perhaps helped the police leadership in identifying and taking action where needed. For instance, more recently, we’ve been seeing cases of action against investigation officers for faulty investigations. This is of course nothing new – only going back to the basics – of how the police should be to ensure rule of law.
Dispute Resolution Councils is another initiative worth mentioning, which seems to be working quite well since their formation, resolving petty disputes free of cost for many who’d prefer speedy justice then lengthy (and expensive) court proceedings.
Initiatives are nice though, but remain useless unless they help the bottom line i.e. law and order in KP. Though general policing seems to have improved and a recent report also highlights reduction in terror incidents and civilian casualties in the same, but the police has been unable till now to prevent large scale terrorist attacks. The recent APS attack and Imambargah attack point to the same. Suffice to say, increased, concerted efforts need to be made – despite the valid concerns about the surrounding tribal areas and the fallout of operations there coupled with lack of cooperation e.g. in case of FC return by the federal government.
In conclusion, KP Police might not be there yet in terms of delivering peace to the public, but the direction is surely correct – for the first time perhaps. One can be sure given a few more years, when the more institutional reforms pay off, we can realize the dream of a peaceful KP – something which PTI was voted in for in the province. Meanwhile, more power to the dream of depoliticization of all government institutions and more power to those who continue to push for them.