DAWN - Features; August 17, 2002

August 17, 2002


Political parties have to take quick decisions

By Ahmed Hassan

ISLAMABAD: With the announcement of the election schedule, including filing of nomination papers from Aug 19 to 24, the crucial stage of seat adjustments among the major political parties has reached; and, besides three major stakeholders — the People’s Party Parliamentarians (PPP), the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N)’s and the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal (MMA) — the Grand National Alliance (GNA) would have to take quick decisions, sources told Dawn on Friday.

After an understanding on Thursday between PPP’s Makhdoom Amin Fahim and PML(N)’s Raja Zafarul Haq and then of both with the MMA, the pro-government parties and their supporters were facing a lot of problems, they said.

Earlier on Wednesday, President Gen Musharraf tried to woo Jamaat-i-Islami chief Qazi Hussain Ahmed to the pro-government camp side by making some sort of understanding with the newly-formed GNA, but to no avail.

The opposition political parties had, thus, decided to take an immediate look at their own potential and to take quick decisions about the planned adjustments with like-minded parties, sources said.

The GNA is also holding its first meeting of central executive here on Saturday which will also serve as central parliamentary board to finalise the lists of joint candidates of its component parties.

First priority of the GNA, sources revealed, would be to putting strong candidates against major players of the opposition parties, including the PPP, the PML(N), the MMA, and the PAT (Pakistan Awami Tehrik) as the government would like to see the back of the frontline contenders for the premiership.

The central parliamentary board of the PML(N) is also being held here on Saturday, with party chairman Raja Zafarul Haq in the chair, to take decision on finalisation of party candidates’ list and pointing out where the party would likely be making seat adjustments.

After giving final shape to the party candidates’ list, both on the national and provincial assemblies seats, the party leaders will hold an important meeting with the leaders of the MMA on Aug 21 in a bid to make and finalise seat-to-seat adjustments where possible.

The party, sources said, expected that it would still be able to make adjustment of seats with the PPP, which, in its view, would be more crucial one.

The PML(N), it may be mentioned, has already reached an understanding with the PPP in the NWFP to counter the damage that its rival, the PML(QA), may try to make to it by siding with the Pakistan People’s Party (Sherpao).

A spokesman of the PML(N) told this scribe that the party had no dearth of candidates but it wanted to contest elections on the lines of those who were for or against the government and, hence, would like to make seat adjustments with the MMA and the PPP wherever possible, in all the provinces.

The spokesman claimed that the party would file the nomination papers of newly-elected party president Shahbaz Sharif and some other family members as well against whom there was no case pending with the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).

Similar meetings had been called by the People’s Party Parliamentarians in the federal capital as well as the provincial capitals to make seat adjustments on national as well as provincial assemblies seats, party sources said.

The MMA, which had held a marathon meeting of its central parliamentary board on Wednesday to finalise its lists of candidates in respect of Balochistan and Sindh provinces, would again be meeting to finalise the candidates’ lists in Punjab and the NWFP on Sunday, sources said.

A source in the MMA said the lists of candidates for both national and the provincial assemblies had already been finalised and decisions were expected only on those seats which the religio-political alliance would offer to other parties as an electoral bargain.

Though the challenge is big, the opposition parties had the realisation that their ultimate success lay in their cooperation through fielding joint candidates in the polls wherever possible, sources said.

A service-oriented PIA needed

THERE are reliable reports that Pakistan International Airlines having bought some six more Boeing-747s from Cathay Pacific would try to expand its operations in North America. It is said the PIA is looking forward to starting operations from Houston (Texas), Chicago (Illinois) and Los Angeles (California). If the airline is able to pull it off, it will be a major commitment as far as financial implications of a start-up operation is concerned. But can the PIA handle it? Answer would be a ‘yes’ and ‘no’.

Yes, because there is a large and growing expatriate population in North America who prefer their national carrier essentially because it offers them direct flights, saving them lots of time. But it is this expatriate traffic which the PIA is losing fast to airlines like Swissair, Emirates and Gulf Air, even in the face of little or scant competition from them. These airlines in a sense are no competition to the PIA since they offer flights which take days to reach Pakistan while the PIA from New York usually takes 16 hours if all goes well, which is a big if. Even in these circumstances the PIA seems to be losing business to them. So we come to the nays.

No, because the PIA is unable to offer consistent and good services to its customers right from the word go. Even when the season is slow and if one calls for a seat months in advance, the first thing a person is told is that the flight is full and there can be no immediate confirmation. Not that eventually people don’t get the seat but the arduous task of seat confirmation is still gruesome. Again, when it comes to its expatriate population, the PIA does not offer incentives being convinced that expatriates are in the bag because of the facility of direct flights. Then we come to service.

Here I will base my conclusions on my recent trip by the PIA to Karachi in June in the club class which will demonstrate a phenomenon endemic to the airline. First, the in-flight service was poor from the get go: headphones and TV monitors were not working, looking for a cup of tea was a chore when we flew from New York to Manchester. (This was true to and from Karachi to New York). Then at Manchester the plane blew its engine cover and we were indefinitely delayed (unavoidable).

After much ado some 300 passengers were put up in hotels. After being told that we will be flying to London and then back to Manchester, then again finally the same plane was fixed after almost 48 hours we were off. Here began another saga: my seat on the flight back to New York was cancelled and I was told there are no seats. When I sought the next alternative flight I was told that I would be charged another $50 for the change of flight.

When I explained that it was not my fault, they said no these are the rules the almost $2,000 price tag of the club class seat did not cover the cost. I reluctantly paid but complained on return, to which the general manger of the PIA at New York, Salahuddin, a genial gentleman, gave what he thought was a credible explanation. “Well, you see when you did not reconfirm your seat within 48 hours of reaching Karachi, the computer automatically cancelled your seat.”

“But the delay was due to the PIA flight being delayed in Manchester,” I said. The answer: “You know the computer does not know such things; it will do what it is programmed to do.” So I asked when I explained to the airline my predicament, why they did not correct the error. They could have but that would take a gigantic bureaucratic letter writing to get the $50 back. This was my experience.

I am sure similar episodes are in abundance at the airline and no one seems to bother. Then again my flight back to New York on Sunday was delayed by another 48 hours. But that’s another long story.

The long and the short of it is that the PIA is part of a service industry and ultimately it should be answerable to its customers; but some legitimate complains must be addressed immediately. No doubt it has a captive customer base in expatriate populations in Europe, the Middle East and North America with no viable competition because of the uncertain security conditions in the country. However, someday all that could change and there could be a stiff competition from the likes of British Air, Lufthansa, KLM and other Gulf or Emirate airlines once things improve and, believe me, once that happens the PIA would get run for its money.

So, why doesn’t the new management, which has been given carte blanche by the government to do what it pleases to, improve the airline, correct the poor service it offers its main customer base — the expatriates — and start improving things now.

It has to start by making its workers take pride in their work once again. While in Pakistan, one saw the PIA employees’ morale at the lowest ebb with complaints that while they are being stiffen with pay and benefits cut, the bigwigs re-employed by the airline earn big bucks and they have nothing substantial to show for it, even after more than a year. Need one point out the case of huge corporations like Enron and WorldCom where top bosses floundered the companies fortunes with the monies of the employees and now they face jail. There is a lesson to be learnt here. Enough said.

MUSHARRAF IMAGE: When President Gen Pervez Musharraf comes to the US next month, there is a palpable shift in support for him among the expat community in this country.

His inaction in the face of the stepped-up militant attacks are undermining his authority and many believe he is probably hamstrung by his own intelligence services which are advising him.

The community which welcomed him after he came to power, removing former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, has become more and more disenchanted with his latest actions, not the least of which was the holding of the referendum.

In October 1999 the community seemed to welcome Gen Musharraf’s ascendancy to power. Barring a few voices of dissent from the hard-core Pakistan Muslim League supporters, all political parties / groups operating here were happy. In fact, the general did sense the overwhelming support he had in North America during his three trips here where he addressed Pakistani community.

But all that has changed now. The voices of dissent which were deafeningly silent have now emerged as they see deja vu in Gen Musharraf’s actions.

However, there is also a dichotomy of views. The elitist class of Pakistanis who were completely jaded with the democratic governments of former prime ministers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, what with expose after expose appearing in major US publications about the ill-gotten wealth amassed by Ms Bhutto and Mr Sharif, were happy. They felt that Gen Musharraf had the right mindset to steer Pakistan away from the sway of the so-called extremist direction to a moderate one.

The working class Pakistanis who welcomed the army rule were skeptical and resigned to fate. “What Pakistan needs is the army rule. Otherwise corruption would ruin the country,” said one Pakistani community leader but there were others in the community who rejected his moderate views, saying: “Pakistan is an Islamic state. We do not want any secularist rule. Nizam-i-Shariat should be imposed in Pakistan as an alternative to corrupt regimes,” they contended.

But ever since the referendum and the proposed amendments which are seen as the army’s desire to perpetuate its rule forever, the tide has shifted. Although there is no consensus on one single political leader who could steer the country out of the present constitutional imbroglio, the people in general are aware that barring a return to the civilian rule, the support given Pakistan by the Western nations, particularly by the Americans, in the aftermath of Sept 11 events, which made Gen Musharraf make an aboutface on Pakistan’s support for the Taliban in Afghanistan, could evaporate.

While in New York, besides meeting US President Bush he would be attending the anniversary of Sept 11 attacks, and at a time when he is perceived as the being the frontline leader in the US war on terrorism, the reports from back home are not good.

Besides, the BJP government, stung by the pronouncement by US Secretary of State Colin Powell that Kashmir is on the international community’s agenda, is expected to launch a full-fledged public relations charge in a bid to undermine his credibility.

Indian Prime Minister A. B. Vajpayee is expected to travel to New York with a huge contingent of Indian ministers, including Deputy Prime Minister L. K. Advani, to present India’s case against cross-border terrorism which they claim has still not stopped.

Pakistan was sending its righteous Information Minister Nisar Memon who was set to hold meetings with various human rights and journalists group here before the Musharraf trip to mollify their concerns. But that trip has been cancelled for now.

Constitutional experimentalism

By A. R. Siddiqi

PAKISTAN could be aptly described as the hub of a sort of costly constitutional experimentalism, or the making and the unmaking of the fundamental law of the land. August 2002 sees another landmark in our volatile and fluctuating constitutional history when the president announces his constitutional package. This would be for the seventh time round since 1954 when a substantially amended, almost good as new, in spirit if not in letter, constitutional package will be delivered.

Underlying the process of constitutional death and rebirth, more than anything else, has been our collective sense of insecurity at the national level and the inordinate thrust to power, at the individual level, on the part of the wielder / wielders of authority at a given point of time. It had been a sort of a deathly struggle between strongmen and an essentially weak people.

The first nine years (1947-56) saw at least two Basic Principles Reports coming to nought and the abortion of the 1954 draft constitution. The ill-starred document, having already steered through the second (and very nearly) the third reading, was aborted by a physically- and mentally-stricken, governor- general Ghulam Mohammad. He would not only kill the foetus but also the institution mothering it, the first sovereign constituent assembly of Pakistan. Thus throwing the baby with the bath water.

An inter-wing consensus statute law came into existence in 1956 to place the eastern and western wings at the delicately- balanced plateau of parity. That was in spite of the 56-44 per cent demographic differential between the two halves after the eastern half surrendered a decisive 10 per cent to the western half to achieve a workable arrangement.

The inter-wing (national) consensus document had been barely in existence (rather in force) for less than two years when it was overturned by president Maj-Gen Iskandar Mirza with the active support — virtually under the command — of army chief Gen Mohammad Ayub Khan. As the first president under the 1956 Constitution, Iskandar committed an egregious folly in destroying the very instrument that elevated him to the exalted status of the head of the state and which was the prime source of his power.

In the time to come, Ayub would give his (“I Field Marshal Ayub Khan give to the people of Pakistan...) referendum-based Constitution in 1962, to be abrogated by Gen Agha Mohammad Yahya Khan barely seven years later in 1969.

Four traumatic years later, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, in 1973, would give a consensus constitution to the rump Pakistan after the loss of East Pakistan in the aftermath of an extended civil war, a short (almost phony) war and military defeat. The 1973 document was all but killed, just four years later in July 1977, by another army chief, Gen Mohammad Zia-ul-Haque. Zia placed the country under his Provisional Constitutional Order (PCO) until 1985 and for yet another three years under a partyless democracy until his death in an air crash in August 1988.

The 12 troubled years of democratic rule (1988-1999) under Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif saw the democratic order suffer from the whims of the two rulers, eventually to fall prey to the coup d’grace of yet another army chief, Gen Musharraf. In the third year of his military rule, Gen Musharraf is now busy doctoring the 1973 Constitution, held in abeyance, ever since his takeover. Before him the two democratically-elected rulers had spared little effort and actual action in bleeding the 1973 Constitution in the gutter through as many as seven / eight sweeping amendments.

Gen Musharraf’s constitutional package has aroused much animated comment at the expert and grassroots levels. The constructive and honest intent of the package to replace ‘sham democracy’ with true democracy apart, the question begging for an answer remains: whether the imposition of democratic order by a group or an individual could be compatible at all with democracy as an embodiment of the popular (general) will. The official response remains firmly in the affirmative.

Information Minister Nisar Memon says: “All amendments will be made to strengthen the democratic framework and federalism. Necessary ‘checks and balances’ will be introduced to ensure a harmonious, friction-free equation between the president and the prime minister.”

However, while power and authority would rest with the prime minister ‘checks’ would stay with the president. (Just reverse the equation and see the result for yourself). Armed with the revival of Article 58-2(b) and the formation of the National Security Council, the president would, to all outward appearances, be anytime better placed than the prime minister in the actual exercise of power and authority. According to President Musharraf in his policy statement of July 12: “I believe in the unity of command as a soldier and authority and power should remain with one person...”

Like two swords unable to stay in one scabbard, thus the president and the prime minister would at best make an odd couple under the new dispensation. That is in spite of the assurance of minister Nisar Memon to stay very close to the 1973 Constitution — only minimum essential amendments will be made to the Constitution.

The fact remains, when it comes to tampering with the fundamental law of the land, outside parliament (the House of Representatives) the determination of the ‘maximum’ and the ‘minimum’ would depend on those in absolute command and authority, irrespective of the duly articulated general will.

The question now is: how much longer would we go on experimenting with the fundamental law of the land to resolve, once and for all, our own identity as a constitutional and lawfully formed national entity? Oh, how much longer?

The writer in a retired brigadier.

Cross-border journalism

THE most common comparison that one often makes between Pakistani and Indian newspapers is that the one there are much much cheaper, in fact, a single newspaper here usually costs as much as a week’s supply in India. One complaint that some people in Pakistan have is that Indian newspapers and magazine are not easily available here. Perhaps many would say for good reason. You can access them on the Internet but then to read any paper in real is probably a different kind of experience.

A recent visit to India gave me a good chance of doing just that. For the price of one newspaper in Karachi. I could get six of New Delhi’s broadsheets: The Times of India, The Indian Express, The Tribune, The Statesman, The Hindustan Times and The Hindu. According to local journalists there, Delhi’s best-selling newspaper is The Hindustan Times with a circulation of around half a million. Compare this with the circulation of a few hundred thousand — nationwide — of Pakistan’s largest-selling Urdu newspaper.

The most obvious difference between Pakistani and Indian newspapers has to do with what’s on the front page. Page 1 of The Times of India on Aug 3 had six stories out of which only two could be termed as carrying ‘hard news’ — as in informing readers that something had happened in the past 24 hours — in this case, an announcement by the chief election commissioner of India on the schedule for elections in Jammu and Kashmir.

The other four news items were more ‘featurish’ in content: one was about the hitherto unresolved murder of a female Indian Express journalist. It had the New Delhi police saying that a government official was behind the murder. The other was how a price war between Air Tel and Hutch, two of Delhi’s leading mobile phone providers, was reducing prices for consumers. A story on the year 2002 being on course to become the warmest year ever, and one which — quite surprisingly — quoted a single medical professor to say that laser eye surgery should be monitored, made up the rest of the front page. There was also a quarter page ad which said that it was introducing a new brand of atta, ‘Ashirwad.’

Unlike newspapers in Pakistan, the back pages of most Indian broadsheets have sports-related stories, and usually more than half the page is made of ads. Interestingly, enough, one of these back page adverts offered readers purchase of Abida Perveen’s cassettes.

The other major difference with our papers was the content of the metropolitan pages. Most of the metro pages of the Delhi papers had stories related to fashion and glamour on the front page, certainly not the case here. This also might have to do with the fact that the city was in the midst of holding India Fashion Week but local reporters said that their editors often preferred stories on entertainment, fashion and gossip instead of hard news, apparently because that increased circulation.

BC Verghese, a former editor of The Hindustan Times, a moderator of the workshop I had gone to India to attend, noted this trend saying that there was a distressing tendency in many newspapers there to mix comment and reporting. It would be perfectly fine to do both, but separately of course, he said. Some of the local journalists complained that this tendency was just another, perhaps more perverse, example of the market dictating terms to the media.

The front page of the Times of India’s metro section (called Delhi Times) had a report on Rohit Bal, a well-known designer who would be having a show that day. The other ‘news’ items included a report on M Shyamalam’s new movie Signs (he made the Hollywood hit Sixth Sense), a short comment on the significance or otherwise of the mangoes President Musharraf sent to the Indian prime minister, and director Mahesh Bhatt’s comments on the tapes allegedly linking underworld boss Chota Shakeel with actor Sanjay Dutt.

The inside pages hardly had any proper news stories as such. Around two-thirds of the space was taken up by ads (it was a Saturday) and the rest were reports on ongoing exhibitions, dinners and lunches (including one hosted by local Indian channel SABe where LK Advani was the chief guest), plays or the fashion week. That day’s issue also had a separate property section with not just real estate ads but also articles by newspaper staff on the various options available for readers interested in purchasing, say, a new house. The editorial page content of The Times of India included: Earth’s Dearth, an article on combating pollution within the context of various international treaties and agreements; Hit Ka Raaz, an interview in question and answer format of Vikram Bhatt, maker of Raaz and Awara Pagal Deewana. One of the three editorials of the day was called ‘Kashmir Rethink’ and criticized India’s approach to the area, arguing for a new approach but within the confines of the Indian constitution.

Moving on to the Indian Express, it had a follow-up of its scoop of the day before on how BJP leaders and their friends and families had benefited from LPG and petrol pump allocations by the union petroleum ministry. The front page lead on August 3, “Pure for sure? From a CM’s son to state BJP chief’s wife” was on how various members of the party had gotten out-of-turn allocations in Haryana and Punjab. The five reporters who wrote the story talked individually to most of the 34 people who were mentioned in the report. A few days later, an announcement from the Indian prime minister’s office retrospectively cancelled all allocations made by the ministry.

The Express was significantly more investigative than its rivals, with major chunks of its national and metro section devoted to hard news reporting and political coverage. The last page, though, had fashion and art-related reports including a column by presumably a staffer badmouthing fashion week calling it the ‘Lakme Fracas Week.’ The editorial page had a column from the editor-in-chief Shekhar Gupta and a ‘Reporters’ Notebook.’ One of its two editorials was related to Pakistan and commented on Musharraf’s “apology” to Bangladesh.

Pakistani readers will probably recall that “regrets” were expressed but the Express opted to use the word ‘apology.’ It appreciated the gesture of the Pakistani president saying that it was significant that an army ruler had actually done so but then said that this was done “after the severe indictment by the previous regime in Dhaka, which literally demanded such a gesture.” It then tried to employ sociological reasoning to write, rather sarcastically: “Pakistanis have been suffering under the great delusion that India was responsible for the break-up of their country, and hence a deep sense of anger and desire for revenge against India had been fostered in the minds of a whole generation by the elite. Getting this bile out of their system should have a salutary effect on the general health of Pakistan.”


(Email: omarq@cyber.net.pk)

Fiction depicting Sindh discussed

KARACHI: The malaise of Sindh (Ashob-i-Sindh) as reflected in Urdu fiction was the topic for discussion at a gathering of writers on Thursday. The book, written by senior writer and researcher Syed Mazher Jamil, has just appeared and most of the participants were lucky enough to have gone through it or most of its chapters.

Sindh, Muslim Shamim said, has a long history of malaise, infliction of its people and loot of its resources by alien tribes and rulers. After partition, things took a notable turn. With new arrivals from India and the influx of population from other areas within the country, demography of the province underwent a dramatic change. The local people embraced the newcomers with open arms, but due to the failure of the administration, selfish and inept politician, corruption in the bureaucracy, etc., the province became a tormented land ruled by forces of arms, criminals and the plunderers — a phenomenon which has been reflected in the Urdu fiction.

He said the author has with much pain and skill gone through the large collection of Urdu fiction and culled highly readable pieces relating to the socio-political and cultural life in Sindh. Karachi’s separation from Sindh and later the merger of the provinces into One Unit had only added to the misery of the Sindhis and their valiant freedom struggle also found its place mostly in Sindhi literature.

Among those who expressed their views in the context of Urdu fiction and its role in depicting the soil and the souls of the people included senior writer Khaleeque Ibrahim Khaleeque, Hussain Majrooh, who had come from Lahore; Saba Ikram, Prof Saher Ansari, Mobin Mirza, and Humra Khaleeque, who hosted the programme on behalf of Academy Baazyaft.

Pointing out the fast-changing scenario in the province and deterioration in its economic and political life, Khaleeque Ibrahim said the afflictions were the outcome of our baneful past. However, he admired the book as an important work on fiction and criticism.

Poet and satirist Hussain Majrooh found the book as a combined study of literature, politics and social science. The writer has not discussed his thesis by dividing Sindh into urban and rural areas which is a great quality, Majrooh said. It is the produce of a social scientist who has viewed society in an unbiased manner, he observed.

To Prof Saher Ansari, the book reflected a particular thought and negated the belief that literary criticism in the present times could no more be ideological in its basis. The study of any literary piece could be made from political, social, psychological or any other angle; so the writer has done it in a well-planned and thoughtful manners. He recalled that similar studies were also carried out by some foreign students too. A student from Chicago had researched the ‘volatile Sindh’ some years back and wrote a book. Similarly, a language teacher from Japan and now head of the Urdu Department at a Japanese university had compiled a thesis on Sindh. Both studies, Ansari said, were completed under his guidance.

He admired the book for its lucid prose and said quotations from different books have been culled intelligently, thus presenting a fine mosaic — unity in diversity. Also the picking of fictional lines from a travelogue by M. Khalid Akhtar and the humorous prose by Mushtaq Ahmad Yusfi are examples of remarkable study by the author.

Mubin Mirza pointed out that the book presented the first concerted effort to expose malaise of Sindh after the production of post-partition literature pertaining to the communal riots.

Saba Ikram remembered two similar titles on the subject — one by Shahid Kamrani and the other by Shahzad Manzer — both analytical in approach and yet journalistic in prose, but Jamil’s book, he added, is literary in form and content.

He quoted several stories and recalled their writers on the subject, some of those from Punjab, who had written about Sindh with deep sympathy and passion.—Hasan Abidi

Need to rethink police reforms

THE high echelon of the Sindh police and the federal government will hate to admit but the ground realities are that the so- called police reforms which might be officially enforced on or after Aug 14, and are being unofficially practised since February 2002, have failed.

The most surprising fact is that the bifurcation of the police department into investigation and operation (watch and ward) has been done without any covering notification. Recently, when I brought this fact to the notice of a senior police officer, he looked around in mock fear and put his finger on his lips to perhaps say that this matter could not be discussed.

But this important matter needs to be discussed because the reforms in their present shape are going to distort and deform the working of the police department. It is quite obvious that the policymakers are trying to emulate Western countries, specially the US, little realizing that they are taking one step forward and two steps backward.

In America, there are federal offences which are to be investigated by the FBI and the local police have nothing to do with them except extending full cooperation. The local police have detectives (investigation officers) in civvies and uniformed personnel. Each police station is further divided into homicide, anti-burglary, anti-narcotics, anti-vices squads, etc. They are specialists in their own fields but all of them work under one SHO (police captain) and one district attorney (DPO). As they have abundance of resources, the two detectives who work together are provided a car.

Similarly, the two policemen patrol the area in cars and cordon off the scene of offence before the arrival of the detectives but all of them work under one commander, i.e. the police captain. The policemen or detectives do not have to buy petrol from their own pockets as our police force is made to do though the senior police officers will be loath to admit the gospel truth.

The division of the police force into two departments — investigation and operation — with two DPOs has created a host of problems for the general public for whose benefit the police reforms are being experimented.

It has also created rivalries, heart-burning among the SHOs and the investigation officers. Leg-pulling has become a common feature. People do not know who is the right person to approach to — the DPO Operation or the DPO Investigation — for the redressal of their grievances.

Demonstrations by the aggrieved people can be witnessed daily outside the office of the DPO Operation, Hyderabad, who has no idea of what the demonstration is about. The reason is that the case pertains to the DPO Investigation whose office is located on the outskirts of Hyderabad in the dreaded centre of the former CIA.

One must spend at least Rs60 on rickshaw to visit the office of the DPO Investigation. “Angres Bahadur” was not fool to set up SSPs’ and DCs’ offices in the heart of the cities. The existing resources are not enough to meet the minimum requirements of one police force but these have now been divided among investigation and operation departments. For all practical purposes, the police reforms have created total confusion.

Any senior police officer would say that the so-called police reforms are neither realistic nor practicable. Had the authors of the reforms read the Bombay District Police Act — under which Sindh police were functioning — perhaps these reforms would not have been introduced.

Unfortunately for Sindh that it lost everything in the One Unit whose legacy is the present system. The present crop of police officers had never worked under the Bombay District Police Act which even in today’s developed world would be the best system. They do not know the merits of the erstwhile system, otherwise they would have opted for the Bombay District Police Act.

The district police under the said Act was already divided into two compartments — armed police and unarmed police. Both these departments worked under one DPO (superintendent of police) but they had specific duties to perform. The armed police were responsible for guard duties at the bungalows of high officials such as district judge, deputy commissioner, commissioner, DIG, VIP duties on the visits of prime minister, president, governor and minister. The armed police were also responsible for anti-dacoit operations as there were no rangers except the Sindh police rangers which were raised to crush the Hur movement and had nothing to do with district police.

The armed police were a highly trained force, with mastery over small and heavy arms. Ninety per cent of the force had retired armymen. This force was housed in the police headquarters known in police jargon as the “line” (remember line haazir) and had nothing to do with police stations. When any unarmed police officer or policeman was punished, he was sent to “line”.

This practice is still in vogue. The unarmed police had only one function — crime control, registration and investigation of crime. Woe to that SHO whose detection and conviction was less than 80 per cent. In such a case he was pilloried, sent to “line” and a departmental inquiry held against him.

“Burking” of crime (hiding of crime) was a serious offence as was illegal detention. But, alas, gone are the good old days when an SP would all but hang the SHO if any crime was not registered or if any citizen was found in wrongful detention at the police station. Corruption was at its minimum. Even up to 1960 not a single SHO in the Hyderabad district had a motorcycle or a scooter. Anyone living beyond one’s means would be summarily sacked.

The division of the Sindh police force did not end here. There was also a separate prosecution branch which had to vet the case before it was sent up for trial. The prosecution branch was also under the DPO (SSP) and the unwritten law was that any case sent up for trial must end in conviction, otherwise it should be disposed of as (A class” (untraced) “B class” (false) or “C Class” (mistake of facts and not mistake of law).

Then there used to be a “district public prosecutor” on the pattern of district attorney in America who was a top-notch lawyer with a team of “assistant public prosecutors”, equally good lawyers, appointed by the Sindh government. With such a foolproof dispensation, hardly any criminal could go scot-free.

Ninety-five per cent of the police officers posted at a police station were good investigating officers. They had to be, for selection was strictly on merit. The training of an ASI in criminal law was tough and spread over 18 months. One had to undergo a further practical training of 18 months, known as probationary period, and it was during this period that the substandard stuff was weeded out.

Then at each police station, the SHO had his own special team of intelligent policemen who combed the cinemas, restaurants, hotels, shops, parks, schools, bus stands and other places incognito to collect intelligence as there was only one provincial intelligence agency known as CID (Criminal Investigation Agency). No one could escape the falcon eyes of the police station’s special staff. A former Hyderabad SSP (there were no SSP but SPs), commander Arif, used to say: “If a new sparrow intrudes into the jurisdiction of a police station and the SHO is unaware, then he has no business to remain in the police force”.

With a dozen separate intelligence agencies in the field, murders and other heinous crimes are being committed daily today but the perpetrators of these crimes are seldom arrested. Under the Bombay District Police Act, the police force was as vigilant about the prevention of crime as it was about the investigation and detection of crime. The preventive clauses of the Criminal Procedure Code: 107 (to prevent breach of peace), 109 (vagrants and suspected persons) and 110 (patharidars and harbourers of criminals): were ruthlessly used to prevent the commission of crime.

Newspapers today are splashed with stories of tribal clashes and Karo-kari killings but the police seldom make use of section 107/151. Such cases were seldom reported in the ‘50s and ‘60s. Then there used to be a Goonda Act to curb the activities of hoodlums, miscreants, goons and streets urchins.

The reforms would thus do little to change the situation for the better and would rather lead to the overlapping of responsibilities. However, these reforms may add some glamour to the force but what is of importance is the improvement in the efficiency of the force and hard training to bring it to the pre-One Unit level.

This can be done only by doing away with the legacy of the One Unit and then by re-promulgating the Bombay District Police Act by substituting the name of ‘Bombay’ with ‘Sindh’. The high-sounding phrase of ‘police reforms” or any cosmetic changes would not do. Even otherwise law and order is a provincial subject, and the federation has nothing to do with it.