KARACHI: Inspector General of Police Dr Syed Kaleem Imam has advocated the need of a modern and progressive law to ensure administrative and financial autonomy as well as accountability of police.
However, he regretted that successive governments could not bring changes and reformed the police department because of the existence of an elite culture and feudalistic mindset.
He told Dawn that there were many people who fear that such reforms in the police may ‘erode or compromise’ their powers and they may be held accountable.
Musharraf’s Police Order
Talking about the Police Order, 2002, Dr Imam said that when retired Gen Pervez Musharraf took to power in 1999, he established a focal group of police officers, which continued working for two years and came with a new law for the police department.
Terming it a ‘progressive law’, he said it was based on ‘prudence’ of the police officers. But soon after its implementation, democracy returned to the country with the holding of general elections.
Praises Musharraf’s Police Order, 2002
The new rulers started amending the law and “introduced over a 100 amendments” that compromised the working of the police, he recalled.
The then government used to introduce ordinances to safeguard the amendments in the police law of 2002.
These amendments continued for several years and ended in 2009 when Musharraf’s rule ended.
As a new democratic government came to power, both Sindh and Balochistan reintroduced the colonial-era Police Act of 1861 while Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa continued with the Police Order 2002.
He said it was ironic to note that Gen Musharraf brought the Police Order but it was never implemented in Islamabad.
It was said at that time that it would be introduced in Islamabad when local government system would be introduced there. Subsequently, the local government was introduced in the country’s capital but the Police Order 2002 was not implemented there.
A.D. Khowaja case
The IGP pointed out that after the 18th Amendment there were different opinions as some people thought that the provinces could bring their own law for police while others advocated for a uniformed law in the country on pattern of other criminal laws.
When the then IG, A.D. Khowaja, was ‘prematurely’ transferred, the court took its cognizance and ruled that the government cannot transfer an IG prematurely and without completing his three-year tenure.
The court also ordered for giving the police ‘functional and operational autonomy’ through its detailed judgement in the Khowaja case.
However, the debate was still continued as to whether the police law was a federal subject or provinces could bring amendments in it.
In the same case, former IG Dr Shoaib Suddle became a party and contended for bringing police reforms. He also argued as to whether the Police Order 2002 was a federal and uniformed law or the provinces can introduce their own police laws.
The then chief justice of Pakistan, Mian Saqib Nisar, established a police reforms committee comprising retired and serving police officers with the help of the law and justice commission.
Proposed police reforms
This SC-mandated committee recommended at least seven major reforms to introduce in the modern police law.
“Police law is one thing but policing is another thing,” opined Sindh police chief Dr Imam.
On the question of whether the police is a federal subject or provincial, he said the policing may be work of the provinces but the law should be uniformed on pattern of the Criminal Procedure Code, Pakistan Penal Code and Evidence Act.
Another thing advocated by the SC-formed police reforms committee pertained to improving investigation. The committee had submitted two volumes of the reforms before the SC to this effect.
Apart from modern law and improvement in the investigation, it has also been suggested to establish complaints cells so that the people’s grievances could be heard and addressed and burden on the judiciary on account of Section 22-A of the CrPC be reduced. Thus prior to approaching the courts, all available remedies should be exhausted.
The IGP said that Section 22-A was introduced in 2004 when the then chief justice of the Lahore High Court was hearing some identical cases and argued that instead of approaching the high courts, these people’s complaints pertaining to host of issues should be heard by the sessions judges who have powers of justice of peace to direct the police “to investigate the case on merit”.
He said that Section 22-A basically was an “executive power”, which should generally be not given to the judiciary as all over the world the courts did not order the police to register an FIR.
The police have their own redressal mechanism and if the people were not satisfied with this, then they may approach the judiciary.
The SC-formed body also proposed introducing ‘internal accountability’ to hold senior officers accountable for wrongdoings.
It has also been suggested that since majority of cases were non-cognizable like domestic dispute, matrimonial dispute, land etc, which were basically civil in nature, an ‘alternative dispute resolution or mechanism’ should be introduced to address these problems and reduce burden on the judiciary.
The concept of urban policing has also been suggested.
IG Imam observed that policing in rural and remote area was different from policing in major cities such as Karachi and Lahore or any city having population of one million.
Therefore, the concept of ‘urban policing’ has been proposed as per the world practice.
He said that in an urban city there should not be police stations located everywhere. There should be one big or major police station covering a huge area with a mechanism to respond emergencies, etc.
One major reform proposed by the former and serving police officers’ body related to combating terrorism.
The IGP said that when the military courts were established, it was stated at that time that these courts would be for a period of two years and in the meantime, the judiciary should set up or improve their system to handle the terrorism-related cases.
But now, it appeared that perhaps the military courts were being given another extension, he said.
The reforms committee had proposed that such a mechanism that must include witness protection should also be introduced so that ‘normal courts’ can hear terrorism-related cases.
It has also been proposed to bring ‘legislative reforms’ such as amending certain sections in the CrPC, PPC and Evidence Act in order to address the problems pertaining to the prosecution and trial matters.
The IGP, who had given a presentation to the SC about proposed police reforms, claimed that Sindh had taken a lead in this regard by establishing complaints cells, introducing internal accountability and improving investigation.
He believed that the purpose of this whole exercise was to address flaws and shortcomings in the police and bring improvement so that the people’s issues could be addressed.
Published in Dawn, April 15th, 2019