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Good cop, bad cop

Updated August 04, 2013

Mansoor Khan points out the issues with policing

It takes a new recruit a years’ training in camps followed by two more years’ experience in various police departments to became the perfect cop, in general police terminology.

The one-year training programme is aimed at making the constable or officer capable enough to fight crime through conventional physical and theoretical exercises.

As he is enlisted, the newly recruited cop’s probationary experience gives him an actual understanding of the prevailing police culture, says a police officer with 25 years of experience in the police department. The post-training period cleanses the new recruit of whatever concepts he held of policing, i.e. politeness, obedience, loyalty, intelligence and courage. The following two years give that young, dashing straight-out-of-the-academy officer a sense of power, position, reputation and finally the trick of the trade, i.e. corruption.

The history of policing in the subcontinent tells us that the monarchs established the force to maintain order, not to facilitate citizens.

The concept of police in Pakistan has remained unchanged during the last 66 years; since independence the ruling class has used the power of the baton and stick for their personal benefit and protection, not as an institution to safeguard the electorate.

Inspector General Sindh Police, Shahid Nadeem Baloch believes that the police in Pakistan needs reforms at the highest level. Explaining further he says that an obsolete police system is being followed throughout the country and the patchwork reforms are not good enough. He adds that the budget allocated for the police is only for non-development purposes, ie for salaries and paying the bills, something which is not enough to bring about change for the safety and protection of society.

The increasing crime and terrorism in the country has claimed the lives of hundreds of cops because of lack of proper training and essential equipment required to fight high-profile criminals and terrorists.

The province-wise break-up of the police force shows that the police strength in Punjab is 170,000 for a population of almost 82 million; in the second largest province, Sindh, 105,500 police personnel, including non-operational total or reserve force, guard a population of over 46 million; in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa 75,000 policemen protect a population of over 20 million; and in Balochistan some 46,000 policemen perform their duties for a population of eight million.

A senior police official who wishes to remain anonymous says that the countrywide police and public ratio reflects a threat to the system because one policeman is not enough to guard 800 to 1,000 people. The strength of a police station is not more than 60 cops in both the shifts, even in the troubled areas of the port city, while 20 to 25pc police personnel are deployed for VIP duty or to protect high-profile personalities, he adds.

He ruled out the old system of policing when an officer of a police station knew everyone living in his jurisdiction. Now it is difficult for an officer in charge of the local police station, known as station house office or SHO, to even remember the number of mosques and imambargahs in his jurisdiction.

“It is not impossible. The technology is there — high-resolution CCTV cameras, computerised national identity cards and chips that tell you the location of your vehicle if it is in trouble. If these facilities are available to us or we are trained to use them, they are more than enough to fight crime and for us to use our strength to counter terrorism in the entire country,” the official says.

Modern technology and other accessories are being used in several countries across the world, but Pakistan, a country that holds the status of being the frontline state in the fight against international terrorism, has yet to invest a single rupee in these areas.

“Our secret agencies are equally responsible for these dire straits, since they are unable to provide information about a crime or an act of terrorism prior to its execution,” the officer said, adding that nowadays these agencies provide baseless tips “on a daily basis”.

The intelligence network of the police department is too localised and based on low skill, under-trained officers who are not capable of countering rising terrorism and high-profile criminals.

Another police officer said all other integrated security agencies need reform as the change in police alone is not enough. “The police have become a reactive force instead of working as a proactive force because of the absence of an intelligence network. Resultantly, the police go after the criminals when an incident has already taken place,” he said. Interrogation is still the norm of the day since it helps to crack a new case or leads to the cracking of the current one, he added. “Many high profile cases have been resolved after terrorists confessed during an interrogation. In other parts of the world investigations lead to arrests but in Pakistan it’s quite the opposite, and ironically this works too,” he said.

IG Baloch feels that Pakistan needs its own police model based on the norms and culture of society. “The Irish, London and other police models were established keeping in mind the traditional values of those particular societies,” he said. “We must establish our own system because our dynamics are completely different. We are facing multiple challenges ranging from petty crimes to international terrorism.”

A more optimistic deputy inspector of police, Dr Sanaullah Abbasi, still has faith in his black and khaki. “The morale of the police remains high and you can see policemen sacrificing their lives in the fight against terrorism,” he said. “The police have never been trained to fight terrorism, but they are doing that and they have acted and busted a number of terrorist outfits,” he says.