PESHAWAR: Even two years after the promulgation of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Police Act, 2017, which granted operational autonomy to the police department, the formation of civilian oversight bodies has remained a pipe dream due to minor legal issues.

The provincial assembly had passed the Police Act on Jan 24, 2017, promising the establishment of public safety commissions at provincial and district levels and regional complaint authorities at the regional level to check the police’s excesses against people.

Sources said delay in the formation of those bodies had denied people the right to approach independent bodies.

“Now, the people have to approach the police department with the complaints of excesses the policemen commit,” an official told Dawn.

Police chief says draft amendment to law for purpose pending approval by home dept

The public safety and public complaint commissions have been formed in 12 districts of the province. However, the Peshawar High Court put the process for the rest on hold citing a pending litigation as reason.

On March 31, 2018, Peshawar High Court Bar Association (PHCBA) president Arbab Mohammad Usman had challenged the role of judiciary in scrutiny committees tasked to select independent members for provincial, provincial capital and district safety commissions.

Mr Usman prayed the court to strike down sections 57(2) (3) (4) of the KP Police Act, 2017, saying the inclusion of judges in these panels violates the principal of the separation of the judiciary and the executive.

Section 57(2) of the Act says the high court’s chief justice will head the scrutiny committee for the selection of independent members of the provincial public safety commission, while Section 57 (3) (4) deals with the selection of independent members of for capital city and district public safety commissions.

It adds that a judge of the PHC will head the scrutiny committee for capital city commission, while the district and sessions judge will do the same at the district level.

Sources said a couple of months ago, the directorate of public safety and police complaints commission approached the PHC registrar to allow a judge to head the scrutiny committee for capital city public safety and police complaints commission to select its independent members, while Peshawar district nazim Mohammad Asim Khan also wrote a letter to that effect.

However, the additional registrar of the high court in the letter maintained that they had asked the provincial commission twice to justify its request when the issue in question was sub judice.

It added that if the commission opted not to provide the required justification, then they were advised to approach the court for seeking permission for the needful. However, the home department has yet to come up with a proper response.

“Had the home and police departments addressed this issue quickly, it would have been resolved months earlier but nobody took interest in it,” a source said, adding that after getting operational autonomy, the police had no need for independent checks.

He claimed that with the formation of commissions at provincial and district level being in limbo, there was also no progress on the establishment of seven regional police complaint authorities across the province.

Sources said since the scrutiny committee to select the members of the regional complaints authorities was headed by the chief commission of the KP Ehtesab Commission, the government had disbanded the accountability body but it required amendments to the KP Police Act.

They said Section 143 of the law provided for the hiring of an implementation commissioner to oversee the setting up of bodies enshrined in the law with the assistance of other departments.

The sources, however, said the commissioner completed his tenure on May 30, 2018 without being able to set up most important oversight bodies under the law.

When contacted, KP police chief Salahuddin Khan Mehsud said under 100 days plan, he had forwarded a draft amendment to the home department to amend the relevant clauses concerning scrutiny committees to removes judges from them in light of the view that judiciary may not be involved in the exercise.

He said the proposed draft had been pending with the home department.

Mr Mehsud said the bodies would take two to three months for formation even after the approval of the law amendment for the purpose.

Home secretary Ikramullah Khan wasn’t available on his cell number despite repeated attempts.

Published in Dawn, January 25th, 2019

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