KP police, bureaucracy at odds over authority

Published March 10, 2019
The turf war between the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa police and bureaucracy, which led to the unceremonious exit of the chief secretary and police chief last month, has resurfaced to haunt the government. — Reuters/File
The turf war between the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa police and bureaucracy, which led to the unceremonious exit of the chief secretary and police chief last month, has resurfaced to haunt the government. — Reuters/File

PESHAWAR: The turf war between the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa police and bureaucracy, which led to the unceremonious exit of the chief secretary and police chief last month, has resurfaced to haunt the government.

The recent flare-up came when the police in Kohat district stripped the outgoing divisional commissioner of his security retinue before the arrival of his successor following an administrative reshuffle on March 1.

“When the commissioner of Kohat was transferred, the DPO withdrew all his security before the arrival of his replacement,” a source said, adding that the commissioner got his security after the chief secretary took up the issue with the provincial police chief.

The source said the incident frayed the nerves of bureaucracy posted across the province, which relied on police muscle to perform their duties, so much that they even considered vacating their offices in protest.

Legislation on cards for balance of power

The source said civilian officers were still very jittery about the coming days, especially in merged districts, where the police would take command of Levies and Khasadars forces and won’t provide security and enforcement assistance to the district administration.

“The Kohat incident happened despite the fact that there is a cabinet-approved policy for the provision of security to the district and divisional administration officers among others,” he said accusing the department of converting the provision of security to bureaucrats into a convoluted favour.

On Feb 10, the government sacked KP chief secretary Kamran Naveed Baloch and police chief Salahuddin Khan Mehsud following months long bickering over the shape of the policing system for merged tribal districts, wherein the police wanted to absorb Khasadar and Levies forces in their ranks, while the bureaucracy aspired to keep its control over both forces.

A bill attempting to strike a balance between the powers of the warring sides has been prepared suggesting that at provincial and district levels, the police officers will head the Levies force under the control of the home department.

Earlier this week, the home department also notified the establishment of 25 police stations in tribal districts.

The police and bureaucracy had remained at loggerhead during the ruling PTI’s first tenure in the province over the grant of operational autonomy to the police department. However, the battle went the police way as the then government enacted the KP Police Act, 2017, making the department independent of the bureaucratic control.

Officials familiar with the matter said the government was even considering a legal framework to regulate inter-departmental coordination between police and bureaucracy in light of those issues.

An official said the district administration had to carry out 52 regulatory functions at the district level but that couldn’t happen without the support of the police.

He said the police were a government department and not an independent force, which they had assumed after the enactment of the Police Order, 2002.

“The police think that they are now on their own and thus, putting the whole system at stake,” he said.

The provincial police chief and government’s spokesperson Shaukat Yousafzai were not available on phone despite repeated attempts by Dawn.

Published in Dawn, March 10th, 2019

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