For effective policing By Abdul Khalique Shaikh - Tuesday 19th April 2011

IT is the responsibility of the state to ensure the security of its citizens, to protect their lives, liberty and property. The constitution of Pakistan expressly recognises this responsibility.
In order to discharge this responsibility the state has to create a framework. This involves a legal framework, clearly defined policies, workable strategies and plans, systems, structures and institutions.
There are a number of law-enforcement forces and institutions in our country, the police being one of them. However, if you look at the legal framework, the police is the premier agency mandated by law to assist the state in the discharge of its responsibility of maintaining security and order.
The main authority of enforcing the law is derived from the Criminal Procedure Code. The code gives almost exclusive mandate to the civilian police force. Other law-enforcement agencies are there merely to assist the police.
It is not being argued that other law-enforcement agencies have no legal status or meaningful contributions. It goes without saying that every institution involved in policing or law enforcement has a very crucial role to play. Furthermore, the fight against crime can only succeed if various institutions, agencies and forces work in close coordination with a reasonable degree of specialisation of functions. Collaboration, interdependence and even healthy competition are essential.
Given the formidable challenges of maintenance of law and order in general and rising terrorism and extremism in particular, it would be appropriate to ask which law-enforcement organisation is best placed to meet these challenges.
There can be no two opinions about the fact that the police, being a civilian agency and having close contact with the community, has inherent advantages of working with citizens for their security. The experience of other countries shows it is a strong police force which ultimately succeeds in combating terrorism.
Despite being the lead law-enforcement agency in theory, the police has shown little reluctance about being relegated to playing second fiddle to the bureaucracy, paramilitary forces and others involved in more sophisticated overt or covert policing functions.
Just look at the relationship and status of the capital city police units and Rangers in urban centres for preventive deployment, the FIA and NAB in dealing with white-collar crime, IB and special branches and their counterparts engaged in intelligence gathering and surveillance of criminals.
Here it must be emphasised that whenever something goes wrong the police is invariably blamed, being primarily responsible for law enforcement. This state of affairs has very serious implications for the overall security situation in the country and for the state’s ability to deal with challenges of maintaining order. A weak police means a weak state.
It must be clarified that status or position does not mean superiority in terms of authority and subordination but giving due priority in allocating resources, capacity building and the lead role in carrying out the state’s mandate of policing,
maintenance of law and order, counter-terrorism and investigation of both conventional and sophisticated crimes.
Lack of status as a premier policing agency is evidenced in continuous denial of access to cellphone data, cellphone locators and other similar sophisticated gadgetry, little share in foreign aid meant for law-enforcement capacity building, over-dependence on other organisations in counter-terrorism operations and surveillance, lack of operational independence and helplessness before a non-professional, generalist bureaucracy.
Ironically, this is happening at a time when there is unprecedented consensus among various stakeholders that there is a need to strengthen civilian institutions. The international community has keen interest in Pakistan. Furthermore, economic growth, internal and foreign investment and development are intrinsically linked to the security situation.
For all these reasons the international community seems to be interested in capacity building of the law-enforcement machinery. Their security policies and strategies express clear intentions for strengthening institutions of the criminal justice system, including the police. It is a pity that the police organisations are not in the forefront to directly benefit from these initiatives.
However, this state of affairs is the direct outcome of our chequered political history, which has resulted in institutional imbalance. Besides, political interference and use of the police for political motives by both civilian and military governments, failure on part of the police leadership to develop and transform the police into a modern, professional institution and resultant loss of public trust as an impartial institution have also contributed towards the declining importance of police organisations.
Despite these failures it would be unfair to ignore the tremendous sacrifices made by police officers of various ranks, particularly low-ranking policemen. Many of them have sacrificed their lives. They work for long hours in extremely hazardous conditions. Though certain isolated attempts have been made by police forces at bringing the requisite changes in limited areas, these have proved inadequate. The sacrifices of our policemen must be complemented by right policies.
In order to establish the writ of law, strengthen the rule of law, maintain lasting peace in society and create conditions congenial to development and economic growth, the police have to be made the premier law-enforcement agency. This cannot be delayed anymore. Changes have to be sought in the following four areas: (i) the way the police operates; (ii) the way the police is treated by the government; (iii) public perception of police roles and (iv) the relationship between police and other law-enforcement agencies.
An agenda of internal reforms and internal accountability needs to be set. Besides meritocracy and professionalism, the police has to be modernised by increased use of technology, forensic investigation and surveillance systems.
There is need to bridge the gap between the community and the police and gain their trust. Service delivery at the police station level must be improved.
For Pakistan to have firm foundations, the security of its citizens has to be given top priority. Lasting security and order in society can be achieved by having strong, capable, professional and operationally independent police organisations.
The government, the police leadership, the community and policymakers have very serious responsibilities to share for
making the police a premier agency. This ideal is achievable and we must strive to achieve it.
The writer is a barrister and DIG in Sindh police.

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