New era in policing

September 06, 2016


THE recently promulgated Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Police Ordinance, 2016 (KPPO) is a landmark achievement of the KP government, its IGP Nasir Durrani and his team. It builds on Police Order, 2002 (PO 2002), which came about through the stellar efforts of police leaders such as Shoaib Suddle, Zulfiqar Qureshi and Afzal Shigri.

The KP chief minister deserves accolades for ‘granting’ his own powers to post/transfer senior police officers to the IGP. This is extraordinary in our otherwise highly centralised culture of governance. By doing so, the chief minister has placed himself in a stronger moral position to hold police accountable from the top.

PO 2002, the progenitor of democratic pol­ice reform in South Asia, is followed by Punjab to date; it was followed by KP until KPPO’s pro­mulgation and by Balochistan and Sindh till 2011 when they reverted to the Police Act 1861. It provided inter alia for civilian oversight over police, community policing, external accountability and reduced political role in posting and transfer. However, its overall impact has remained insignificant, mainly due to non-implementation of critical provisions.

KPPO introduces important provisions to support unity of command, transparency, service delivery, merit-based promotions, stricter accountability and implementation. It provides for perfect alignment of the police with the IGP; transparent recruitment through a credible testing agency; institutionalised service delivery through complaint management system, public information system and police assistance lines, and alternate dispute resolution through councils.

The new KP police law will reduce political interference.

It also stipulates merit-based fast track promotions up to the rank of DSP; community policing; and transparency in procurements. It specifies stricter punishments for officers involved in crimes; tenure protection to junior police officers; and a commissioner to oversee on-ground implementation of KPPO.

The KPPO gives the IGP legal powers to resist political interference in transfer and posting of police officers and undertake these tasks independently. The IGP has also been given the powers to promote officers up to the rank of DSP with the help of his team. These powers will help align the police with its commander who can now be legitimately held accountable for posting or promoting inefficient or undeserving officers. The excuse of ‘political interference’ to justify the posting or promotion of inefficient police officers in the province will no longer be available.

However, to make the process of posting, transfer and promotion transparent and inclusive, Article 32 of Punjab (Indian) Police Act 2007 may be examined. It provides for a ‘Police Establishment Board’ of senior police officers to assist the IGP in posting, transfer and promotion of officers up to the rank of DSP. Although Article 9 of KPPO provides for a Police Policy Board, its role is vague.

Secondly, KPPO, like PO 2002, also provides for district and provincial Public Safety Commissions of elected representatives and well-reputed citizens to check and support police. PSCs’ functions include evaluating police performance, holding inquiries, recommending police reforms, etc.

The scrutiny committees, with powers to nominate independent members for the district and capital city district PSCs, however, lack political balance. This needs correction through including leaders of the opposition of district and capital city district assemblies in their respective PSCs instead of the government’s civilian nominee. The provincial PSC must also include an expert to give a broader perspective on the criminal justice system.

Thirdly, for police accountability, KPPO provides for a Regional Police Complaint Authority (RPCA) consisting of a retired judge, a civil servant, and a professional. It stipulates enhanced punishments of five years for police officers involved in unlawful entry into private premises, search, seizure of property, arrest and torture. District police officers can also be transferred by the IGP on the recommendation of two-thirds vote of the district assembly or provincial PSC following an independent inquiry. In the latter case, transfer recommendations would be binding on the IGP.

The provision of ‘referral’ by senior police officers of complaints against police to the RPCA, however, needs review. Although it might help satisfy the complainant, it would neither enhance citizens’ confidence in police’s internal disciplinary proceedings nor encourage police authorities to improve their internal accountability procedures.

KPPO holds greater promise in terms of implementation than PO 2002. It has been introduced after thorough deliberations by an elected government unlike PO 2002, introduced, ironically enough, under a military regime. However, government support is still important to build capacity of a force that is struggling, like police across the country, under chronic underfunding and low skills. Importantly, the KP government and the IGP must develop a feedback system including credible crime surveys and opinions polls to gauge the KPPO’s actual impact on the citizens’ needs.

The writer is a former police officer.

Published in Dawn September 6th, 2016