Police problems

Published August 5, 2017

ON Police Martyrs Day yesterday, this newspaper carried a saddening account of a member of the force. A young graduate in Karachi spoke of how his father, a policeman, was gunned down last month in an attack on a police vehicle — a mode of attack that has become more frequent in recent years in the city. His family lives in police quarters, which they would have had to vacate if no one among them was employed by the force. So real-world concerns dictated that this young man give up his academic trajectory and take the job offered to him as compensation for the death of his father in the line of duty. How much of a sop this is on part of the state is exposed by the fact that he can only be enlisted as a constable — his father’s position — regardless of his qualifications.

His is a story that has been repeated hundreds of times. Since September 2013, Karachi has lost 313 policemen, whether in targeted killings, militant attacks or encounters with criminal networks. An outsider might observe, though, that there is curiously little public sympathy for the sacrifices borne by the beat cop fraternity. Where on the one hand the state’s system of compensation is woefully inadequate, on the other the common man regards members of the police force with suspicion. Such state negligence and public attitudes have left police personnel deeply demoralised. But the other side of the picture must also be highlighted — there is no dearth of corruption on a varying scale in police ranks, besides there are allegations of excessive use of force. The challenge must be taken up by those higher up in the hierarchy — training and investment in human resource are desperately needed to ensure a strong, disciplined and honest police force, and not just in Karachi. Efforts to reform the police have been sporadic and piecemeal, and have done little to increase the citizenry’s faith in the force. This trust deficit must be bridged.

Published in Dawn, August 5th, 2017

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