As the many people and media is busy celebrating the PM Imran Khan’s speech at the UN general assembly, the government has made the draft of police reforms in Punjab police. Any serious police reform must aim to reform the repressive colonial police system and structure and to change the “Thana culture”. Any attempt to reform the police without abolishing the colonial police structure, system and culture would not bring desired results and would not change the Thana culture. Police needs radical reforms and overhauling to change the Thana culture and to improve the performance.
The reforms must aim to turn the police force into a police service to provide security, safety and sense of safety to the public. The reforms must focus to make police corruption free and law abiding. Police must treat every citizen equally, with dignity and respect. But proposed police reforms would not achieve any of them. The proposed police reforms will not address any of the main issues and problems faced by the police system.
We have seen the model police of KPK beating and torturing the protesting doctors in Lady Reading hospital in Peshawar couple of days ago. The police done this torture, beating and arrests just for protesting peacefully was to please their political masters in the province. PM Imran Khan told us PTI has made the KPK police model force. If the model police is so brutal and repressive than we can imagine the brutality and repression of Punjab police.
The PTI government is not ready to learn from the history. The entire previous attempt to reform the police failed because every government wants to keep the rotten and repressive colonial police system intact. Unfortunately, like the previous government- PTI is also doing the same.
The proposed police reforms are seem as an attempt to strengthen the colonial police system. It is an attempt to bring the police force under the Deputy Commissioners. The police officers are resisting this attempt fiercely. The police was under the control of DCs before the introduction of Police order 2002 by Musharaf regime.
The PTI government has given the control of police back to DCs. The police under DCs or under DPOs will not make any difference. The Thana culture and police repression developed when police was under the control of Deputy Commissioners since 1861. The police was made independent at district level in 2002. In last 17 years, nothing has changed.
The public safety commissions at provincial and district level is good step to make police accountable. The establishment of inspectorate is also welcome development. But these measures will not change the Thana culture and transform the police force into public service providing entity trusted by people.
The incremental changes, artificial reforms and half-hearted efforts and measures are not going to change the current police system and culture.
Fear of police, extrajudicial killings, torture cells, and civil rights violations, abuse of power, corruption, injustice, repression, and torture for confession, inhuman treatment of detainees, outdated laws and regulations, illegal detention and denial of the prosecution to the alleged are the terms known to the system based on colonial legacy and culture. Police reforms must end all of this.
There is a remarkable twist of irony that the structure of policing in Pakistan is still based on the colonial period–more precisely, 1861. The rulers had never intended to establish or overhaul this department for their service to the public. Instead, they designed this force to achieve their nefarious objective through cruelty and imparting fear of police.
If the PM Imran khan wants to end the Thana culture and repressive police system then bring in the progressive and modern police laws instead of 1861 police act and laws. Change the police structure, training and working conditions. Bring in the serious reforms instead of making superficial changes.
In the first place, there should be an active and transparent public complained mechanism based on quick response and finally dispensing justice to the victim on a viable proof. This remedy can only be operational once a 24/7 complained cell spearheaded by an officer who is also answerable to his/her officials. At first place, this strategy would be manual and then lead to online where people can, without fear, lodge their complaints with proofs against any unjust practice or misadventure against them in a police station or outside of its premises.
They should be trained to give respect and love to the public. On another extreme, they must be aware of the fact that their unjust behaviour and violence against public would be unbearable, which would surely lead to severe punishments and losing jobs.
Furthermore, regular inspection of police stations and crime review meetings can be an extra mile to overhaul our dilapidated policing structure. Inspections would be significant to tightening the screws on lower police staff involved in venal practices. On the other hand, meetings on crime review would broaden the picture to impede and halt the exacerbating and exasperating state of affairs.
They should be trained to give respect and human treatment to the public. On another extreme, they must be aware of the fact that their unjust behaviour and violence against public would be unbearable, which would surely lead to severe punishments and losing jobs. Prohibit the use of torture, abuse and inhuman treatment during investigation. Bring in transparent accountability mechanism in police and made exemplary punishment to all those involved in torture, extra judicial killings and misuse of power.
Another strategy to repair the tatterdemalion system can be community policing in the form of foot patrolling, which is used to gather credible information through interacting with the public. This technique is beneficial to ward off any emerging evil in society by intercepting it in its rudimentary position.
The separate budgeting allocation would be the real plus for renewing and restoring the lost glory of policing in Pakistan. This capital must be used for professional training and equipping them with modern weapons. Regular course of learning and imparting modern techniques to coup with the crime will take illuminated effect.
Bring in the real reforms. Abolish the colonial police service and introduce provincial police service. All the police officers in a province should be under the complete control of provincial government. The proposed reforms will not solve anything.
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17 November, 2019