Policing the capital

February 22, 2018


IN 1981, a committee of experts submitted a report envisioning the Islamabad Capital Territory Police as “different from the routine organisational structure extant in the police forces of the country”. This is still a distant dream. The newly appointed ICTP chief is striving for reform, but what is needed are institutional endeavours in addition to legal, procedural and other reforms.

The Police Act, 1861 and the Punjab Police Rules, 1934 govern the ICTP. Either amendments should be introduced in the Police Order, 2002, as per the requirements of the federal capital, or a parliamentary committee should draft and enact a new police law. The federal capital’s IGP must be empowered with operational autonomy, which isn’t possible without introducing a police commissionerate system.

Since 2001, the ICTP has shuffled 16 police chiefs, indicating that the security of tenure requires legal sanction. The Police Act, 1861 is silent on this point; the original Police Order, 2002 not only guarantees three years’ tenure but also provides procedures for an IGP’s removal. It also gives an IGP who has been removed a chance to be heard by the public safety commission.

Though the 1981 report recommended the decentralisation of administrative, disciplinary and financial powers down to the sub-division level, the ICTP remains highly centralised. The report also emphasised the IGP’s effectiveness but over the past four decades, the IGP’s office has been dealing mainly with law and order and crime-fighting issues, weakening the office and compromising policymaking. Hence, institutional failures are portrayed as individuals’ failures.

Merely increasing manpower won’t improve standards.

To protect the public interest, public safety commissions and independent complaint authorities should be established. Then there’s the matter of the ICTP having to tackle large-scale protests, often borrowing constabulary from the provinces. These men lack awareness of Islamabad’s dynamics, which creates operational challenges and duality of command.

A trained, well-equipped anti-riot unit would improve crowd management. Legisla­tion on protests that turn into riots will not only facilitate the ICTP in drafting ‘use of force procedures’ but also protect public pro­perty and fundamental human rights. There is precedent: last year, the state of Arizona senate made the organisation of a protest that turns into a riot an offence. Also needed is the raising of a reserve police force.

Then, persistent security threats warrant a dedicated counterterrorism force, for which the government approved 1,000 personnel, reducing the ICTP’s dependence on the Rangers and FC. But the problem with our CTF is that it focuses primarily on combat skills; it needs dedicated intelligence, operations and investigation wings.

Given the installation of 2,000 CCTV cameras in the city under the Safe City Project, it is time that manpower stop being wasted in nakabandi, or the picket style of policing. Ins­t­ead, Islamabad’s outermost cordons sho­uld be strengthened. The expanding slums around Tarnol, Sihala, Rawal Dam, Banigala, etc pose security challenges. To discourage the mushrooming of slums, the land mafia must be stamped out, and security — with input from the capital police — should be an integral part of new housing schemes.

Merely increasing manpower will not improve policing standards; capacity building is vital. The existing training school does not cater for the needs of a rapidly expanding ICTP, which can develop training links with the Punjab and KP police. Leading from this, police stations must be allocated operational costs as needed. Tho­ugh the 1981 report recommended the separation

of operations and investigation, this is yet to be achieved. Investi­gation costs also need revision. Community policing could prove successful in Islam­abad given its high literacy rate.

Meanwhile, since it is a federal law-enforcement agency, the ICTP can synergise its efforts with other federal agencies (eg FIA, National Highways and Motorway Police, Police Bureau). Intelligence-led policing is impossible without the proactive functioning of a special branch, which needs revamping ie capacity building, allocation of more funds, and provision of latest equipment. To improve motivation among junior officers working in Islamabad for decades, it is suggested that officers from the rank of sub-inspectors to deputy superintendents be hired on deputation and rotated amongst the provinces by a selection board.

The ICTP also needs to introspect. From the Lal Masjid episode to the Faizabad sit-in, its relations with the public have been weak. Thus the good work of the police force remains hidden. A dedicated media relations unit is essential. A good move in this regard was the introduction of the ICTP mobile app.

Reforming the ICTP may be the first concrete step in reform of the Pakistan police. A reforms committee is thus urgently needed.

The writer is the author of Pakistan: In Between Extremism and Peace.

Twitter: @alibabakhel

Published in Dawn, February 22nd, 2018