KARACHI: The controversy-ridden meetings to mull over the revival of the Police Order, 2002 bill by a select committee of the Sindh Assembly came to a close on Wednesday with another disagreement as the major opposition parties said they were not in the sitting when a vote was taken on the recommended draft.
Agriculture Minister Ismail Rahu, who was convener of the select committee, said the draft was finalised with the inputs of the opposition parties and members of civil society — a statement disputed by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan and the Grand Democratic Alliance.
After Wednesday’s meeting, Mr Rahu told reporters that the committee held seven meetings to mull over the draft with the intention to make it a consensus document.
He said it was a recommendation from the opposition that the SSPs should work under the deputy commissioners.
Opposition parties say they were not in the sitting when a vote was taken on the draft
On the statement of the PTI-led combined opposition warning that they would move court on the issue, the minister said in that case “we will submit to the court that this draft contains recommendations from the opposition. The opposition wants to go to court by deliberately making the law controversial.”
However, he said despite all that the committee was thankful to the opposition that cooperated with the committee and patiently listened to others as well.
“Even today,” said Mr Rahu, “most recommendations came from the opposition, which were duly heard and accepted as well.”
Points of disagreement
He said there were four or five points on which opposition and treasury members were not on the same page, which included the formation of the selection panel for the composition of the public safety commission and appointment of SSPs.
The matter was further elaborated by Local Government Minister Saeed Ghani who said the opposition wanted that appointment on various cadres of the police should be conducted through the National Testing Service while the draft said that it should be done through the Public Service Commission.
Similarly, “We wanted that certain powers should rest with the SSPs, but later we recommended handing them over to the deputy commissioners on the opposition’s demand”.
Mr Ghani said the three opposition parties were themselves “confused” on the draft and the issues involved, which was why “they would negate a thing that they had themselves recommended a day earlier”.
He said that during the marathon meetings, all sections and clauses of the draft bill were duly read out and debated upon and “we listened to all recommendations and objections made by the opposition and accepted many of them and incorporated them in the recommended draft, yet they kept complaining all the time”.
He said all the changes made in the police order and the draft were in conformity with the order of the court. He said the opposition was given copies of the original and amended police order with a request to make preparations for debate on amendments, but “they could not read these documents. They ... have been taught by someone behind the curtain”.
Mr Ghani said civil society wanted to make public safety commissions powerful and stronger, while the opposition wanted to clip its powers.
“We have not accepted the opposition’s demand where powers of the commission are compromised that could harm the public,” he said.
The minister said the original document made mohtasib (ombudsman) chairman of the selection panel to finalise composition of the safety commission at which the opposition first wanted the chief secretary to head the panel and after several changes in between it came with the demand to make the chief minister and the opposition leader or their nominees as its members as well. “All these gimmicks are meant to make a good law controversial.”
He said the safety commissions at provincial and district levels were effective tools to make police subservient to the public.
He said the safety commissions had been formed after promulgation of the Police Order, 2002, during retired Gen Pervez Musharraf’s rule, but they were not allowed to become functional. However, he added, after the promulgation of the Police Order, such commissions would be formed at provincial and district levels within two months.
Members of the three opposition parties in the select committee, meanwhile, did appear in the meeting where they demanded the minutes of the earlier meetings.
“We walked into the opposition leader’s chamber from the committee room after demanding minutes of the meeting with the request that the convener should inform us when the minutes were available. But they found an opportunity to succeed in their agenda and passed recommendations on the draft in our absence,” said PTI’s parliamentary leader in the Sindh Assembly Haleem Adil Shaikh.
“In fact, they bulldozed the spirit and the whole exercise itself by passing the recommendations when we were not in the meeting.”
He said he would file objections to the draft bill with court and if needed a separate petition would be filed against the government’s “plan to weaken an independent police force”.
Published in Dawn, May 16th, 2019