WITHOUT a responsive and modern police force, long-term peace will be difficult to establish in our cities, and militarised policing is no sustainable alternative to an effective police service. When it comes to policing Sindh, specifically its vast capital Karachi, while an ongoing law-enforcement operation led by the paramilitary Rangers has brought a modicum of peace to the metropolis, there are still many miles to go before Karachi can be termed a safe city. For example, episodes of violent crime — targeted killings, kidnappings — still occur, while the province’s top officials have acknowledged that street crime remains a major problem. In this regard, Sindh’s inspector general of police, A.D. Khowaja, while speaking to the business community in Karachi recently, highlighted many areas which require attention if the police service is to be reformed. Amongst the major problems highlighted by the provincial police chief was the killing of police officers, as well as the need for a modern police law.

Where the killing of police officers is concerned — whether it is the gratuitous violence the city witnessed in the 1990s, or the targeting of police officers by militants and gangsters in the recent past — IGP Khowaja was absolutely right in saying that when the killers of officers are not brought to justice, the inaction saps the morale of the force. Our justice system is notoriously slow, where justice is delayed by years, if not decades. However, if the state wants to encourage police officers to do their best, it must try and punish those responsible for murdering their colleagues. Furthermore, the families of fallen officers must be cared for and treated with dignity. There have been media reports which have highlighted the humiliating bureaucratic runaround some heirs of killed policemen have been given by the machinery of the state.

As for the Sindh IGP’s second point — of the need for a modern police law — this is also a very valid observation. In 2011, the PPP-led government repealed the Police Order 2002 and replaced it with a relic of the Raj, the Police Act of 1861. It is difficult to understand how political forces that swear by progressive values continue to justify the reimposition of this colonial law. Clearly, Sindh needs a law in sync with the spirit of the times, not an instrument the British used to control the colonised population. The current set-up encourages the politicisation of the police force — under this system, officers’ loyalties lie with their political masters, not with the state and the law. Due to heavy politicisation of the force and the corruption it engenders, the genuine sacrifices of police personnel are overshadowed. Mr Khowaja’s recommendations may have not gone down well in some quarters; but these bitter pills need to be swallowed in order to reform the Sindh police.

Published in Dawn, February 10th, 2017

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