KARACHI, Sept 2: The Sindh police have topped the list of provincial government institutions against which most complaints have been lodged over the past eight months at a cell working in the home department, it emerged on Sunday.The Sindh government complaint cell, established in the last quarter of 2009, has received more than 1,600 complaints this year from individuals against different departments. Almost 23 per cent of the complaints pertained to abuse of powers by police officials.

“Of the 1,673 complaints received between Jan 1 and Aug 31 this year, 351 are against police officials,” said an official, citing details of the compiled data.

He explained that the cell mainly served as a government body to receive and address complaints of different natures against its departments by sending them to high-ups of the respective institutions. “If we categorise the complaints, the Sindh police tops among other institutions against which most complaints have been received this year,” he added.

In most cases, he said, complainants from the interior of Sindh and Karachi sought action against police officials accusing them of illegally detaining individuals, demanding bribes and for being highhanded while dealing with the public.

“The cell has also received complaints against the departments of anti-corruption, health, local bodies and other institutions,” he said.

The official claimed that a number of issues raised in the complaints had been resolved after due process.

Critics and experts, however, expressed surprise over lack of government interest in legislation for a body such as the one envisaged in the Police Order, 2002 to achieve the objectives of public oversight, checks and balances and accountability.

Since the Police Order is no longer effective and no such body is in place, the home department complaint cell with a limited mandate has little to contribute to the accountability of policemen who are often accused of exploiting official powers in the absence of any check within the department.

But officials at the helm of affairs believed that the initiative provided an opportunity to people dealing with government departments to get heard.

“I think this complaint cell has provided an opportunity to all segments of society, mainly destitute women who have no other place to go, to lodge their complaints,” said Sharfuddin Memon, the consultant to the home department and head of the cell.

“We have provided a platform to people who have grievances against police. Since the cell’s inception, we have received nearly 2,000 complaints against the police. These complaints were sent to the relevant authorities for action. Our office receives a reply [from the authorities concerned] and a follow-up report on the complaints. So we have managed to initiate an accountability process, which will eventually improve police performance and image.”

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