Like any other police, the Punjab police always had an image problem. In these days of moral and political confusion, the view that they are principally an instrument of oppression in the hands of the political establishment had strengthened.

In 2005, the European Union had expressed concern over what it called “politicisation of police” in Pakistan, and urged the government to implement the Police Order 2002 “in its letter and spirit”.

It looks things are changing now.

On Friday, Regional Police Officer Akhtar Umar Hayat Laleka reshuffled 12 officers serving as SHOs in their hometowns in the Potohar region. He did so in pursuance of a general directive from the Punjab Inspector General of Police Mushtaq Ahmed Sukhera that police officers holding local domiciles should be posted out of their home-districts.

Lists of the sub-inspectors and assistant sub-inspectors of police who have similarly served in their hometowns are also being prepared.

“Yes, the intention behind this move is to depoliticise the police and improve their working,” said officer Laleka, explaining that posting police recruits in their hometowns had been creating problems for the police department.

“Some of them had personal interests in staying in their hometown and others (to look after) political interests,” the RPO said. Locally recruited policemen hesitate to crack down on criminals of their area because of local affinities.

A senior politician, he recalled, once told him that he owed his victory in general election not so much to the development work that he did in his constituency but to the posting and transfers of police officers that he arranged for his voters.

And the deciding voters agreed they would not have voted for him otherwise.

Asked whether officers deployed with some local politicians would also be withdrawn, RPO Laleka replied, “We can’t compromise on security because it is not politically linked.”

However, he reiterated that all officers posted in their hometowns will be reshuffled shortly, “except one or two”.

Lists of all ASIs, Head Constables and Constables of this category serving in the Rawalpindi, Chakwal, Jhelum and Attock regions are ready.

“In the second phase, they will also be reshuffled. No one would be allowed to serve in his hometown,” said officer Laleka.

Of the 12 SHOs of Inspector and Sub-Inspector ranks reshuffled on Friday, two belonged to Rawalpindi district, two to Chakwal and four each to Jhelum and Attock.

SHO Morgah Chaudhry Khalid has been transferred to Attock, SHO Westridge Malik Tahir to Chakwal, SHO Civil Lines Jhelum Chaudhry Muhammad Afzal to Rawalpindi, SHO Sohawa Hamid Khan to Pind Dadan Khan Jhelum, SHOs Ghulam Hussain Haris and Ijaz Abbas of Chakwal to Attock and Jhelum respectively, SHO Attock Nisar Ahmed to Jhelum, SHOs Nayar Mehfooz and Adul Rehman Khan of Jalalpur Sharif Jhelum, Gulfraz of Hazro and Azeem and Aurangzaib of Attock to Rawalpindi.

Senior DSP Shoaib Aqueel told Dawn that the reshuffling was intended to improve police working as officers posted outside their native districts perform with more dedication and are available all hours of the day.

Those serving in their hometowns were usually found not serious toward their work as they went incommunicado after office hours. “Some develop business interests that kept them away even during office hours.

That is why police force is not available in the police stations during night hours,” the officer said.

DSP Aqueel also observed that local police recruits were more prone to shield local criminals and befriend influential politicians to get postings of their choice.

“Their activities lower the image and the performance of the police as a whole,” he said. “If crime is to be controlled, constables should be posted out of their Tehsil and ASIs and SIs out of their home districts.”

Published in Dawn, November 22th , 2014

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