Sindh police shake-up

Published July 19, 2017

MANY of the country’s law and order problems can be traced to the fact that the police department as an institution in Pakistan is not geared towards public service; rather, it seeks to please its political bosses. In fact, politicisation of the police can be described as the biggest factor that contributes to the law-enforcement body’s lack of performance. When the department is stuffed with cronies and political supporters, it is naive to expect it to deliver. The Sindh administration, it seems, is particularly adamant about clipping the wings of the police department and bringing it under its thumb. On Monday, a major shake-up in the province’s police hierarchy was announced as several senior officers, including the Karachi police chief, were changed. However, while transfers and postings of officers are nothing out of the ordinary, in this case what was particularly odd was that Sindh police chief A.D. Khowaja was not consulted by the PPP government. As reported, Mr Khowaja wrote to the Sindh chief minister saying he had “serious reservations” over the shake-up. Over the past few months, relations between Sindh’s rulers and its police chief have been strained, with the political administration unhappy with the IGP for not ‘toeing the line’. This is the latest in a series of moves to isolate the police chief, as a few weeks ago the Sindh government took away the IGP’s powers to appoint SSPs and SPs. But Sindh is not alone in treating the police department like a political appendage. On Tuesday, the Lahore High Court suspended a government notification appointing the acting IGP as the province’s permanent police chief. It criticised the Punjab government for “taking the court frivolously”; the IGP had been appointed after the court’s third deadline while he has only a few months left before retirement.

It would be wishful thinking to imagine that crime and lawlessness in Pakistan can be controlled without an independent, competent police force. However, if political forces insist on creating blockages in the way of the police’s independence, these goals will be impossible to achieve. Instead of constantly meddling in the police’s work, the Sindh government should empower the IGP and give him the independence he needs to do his job. While oversight is necessary, micromanagement is undesirable. Punjab should also take the task of appointing a permanent IGP seriously and do the needful without delay.

Published in Dawn, July 19th, 2017

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