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Police restructuring

July 20, 2014
The writer is a retired police officer.
The writer is a retired police officer.

WHAT has been happening in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on the law and order front during the last over 10 months has largely gone unnoticed by the media and internal security analysts.

Slowly but surely, left to themselves and with a command team entirely selected by the inspector-general, the KP police are trying to make a difference and attempting to come up to public expectations. It is a classic case study indicating that given autonomy and independence in the administrative and operational domain, enhancing professionalism, introducing specialisation and providing the necessary resources, policing anywhere in Pakistan can improve.

It may be too early to assess the crime and terrorism situation but indicators over the last year are mostly positive in KP. A recent performance audit reveals that there is a welcome reduction in terrorist attacks and loss of valuable lives from July 2013 to June 2014 — 401 terrorism-related attacks took place during the said period as against a total of 456 cases during the corresponding period in 2012-13, indicating a 12pc decline.

The most significant decrease of 68pc in suicide attacks is a cause of satisfaction as these came down to eight last year in comparison to 25 in the corresponding period of the previous year. Similarly, there is a 26pc decrease in improvised explosive device blasts that came down to 237 last year as compared to 321 in the corresponding time frame. A declining trend of vehicle-borne IED attacks has also taken place (five against seven).

Given autonomy, policing in Pakistan can improve.

These developments indicate enhanced vigi­­lance and improved coordination between the law-enforcement and intelligence agencies.

Another key indicator is the arrest of suspects and follow-up in the trial of the accused. Here too the KP police are showing promise: 260 accused involved in acts of terrorism were arrested from July 13 to June 14; 77 hardened criminals were accounted for in encounters with the police; 626 cases of terrorism were successfully solved and 109 terrorists were convicted by the Anti-Terrorism Courts.

However, there are some areas of concern that the KP police have to tackle ie increasing incidents of rocket attacks and targeted killings of state functionaries, including police and military personnel. These rocket attacks and targeted killings should hopefully decline with a focused military operation in the affected areas.

Without proper human resource development, training and capacity-building and, above all, development of expertise and specialisation, the police simply cannot cope with the Herculean task of combating terrorism and organised crime.

The following institutional and professional measures taken recently will go a long way in enhancing the capacity of the KP police: one, a school of investigation has been established at Peshawar to hone the skills of investigators, especially in the area of forensics. Two, a school of intelligence has been established at Abbottabad to encourage intelligence-led investigations. Three, owing to the peculiar security situation, SSG-led elite commando training has been made mandatory for promotion in all ranks. Four, recruitment of constables on merit will be made through the National Testing Service and promotions will also be ensured through an external provincial monitoring body.

These measures will only succeed if separate sub-cadres of investigators and intelligence officials are created and proper technical equipment is not denied to them by a premier federal intelligence agency.

IT skills and technological developments will also contribute to effective policing.

The police can deliver provided there is political will to give the police chief a free hand in operational and administrative matters over the force that he commands. A little less than a year in his job, the IG of KP police is enjoying his command and wants to bring about meaningful changes because he is getting the support of his political bosses and bureaucratic colleagues.

Above all, from additional IGs down to station house officers (SHOs), there are minimal extraneous influences that deter him from having his way in the working of his department. In a recent multiparty conference in Peshawar, the opposition parties praised him for political neutrality and professionalism.

The crux of the matter is that the police are gradually on a path of gaining the trust of the public. Given the history of public mistrust and political interference, it is not an easy task, not only in KP but in the other provinces as well.

The key factor in effective policing is to select an inspector-general carefully, give him security of tenure and a free hand in picking his team of commanders at various tiers, including district police officers and SHOs, hold him accountable for any transgressions of the law and Constitution, provide him technology and equipment for achieving success and respect him if he has the courage to say no to illegal commands and to scandalous orders to misuse his authority.

It is only then we will see democracy flourish and the rule of law established in Pakistan.

The writer is a retired police officer.

Published in Dawn, July 20th, 2014