KARACHI: Police authorities, civil society and political parties have serious concerns over the recently revived Police Order because of some amendments that are said to be against the spirit of the judgements of the superior judiciary, undermine the independence of the inspector general of police (IGP) and politicise the department.
On Saturday, the Pakistan Peoples Party-led Sindh government had managed to pass the Sindh (Repeal of the Police Act, 1861 and Revival of Police Order, 2002) Amendment Act, 2019 in the provincial assembly — a law that gives it power to sack the IGP without completing his fixed three-year tenure.
Two smaller opposition parties — the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan and Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal — supported the bill while the three major opposition parties — the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan and Grand Democratic Alliance — had opposed it.
The recently revived Police Order could only be enforced in the province after the Sindh governor gives his assent to the bill.
Civil society to hold deliberations
When asked as to whether civil society would challenge the revival of the Police Order in court, rights activist Karamat Ali, who was one of the main petitioners in the police reforms case, said: “We are going to have a meeting of the petitioners and concerned civil society organisations in a day or two.”
He said that the meeting will review the new law and decide the future course of action.
IGP’s letter to Sindh govt says new law ‘inconsistent’ with decisions of the apex court
He said that the civil society organisations would share their views about the new law through a press conference.
Former IGP Tariq Khosa told Dawn that the Sindh government tried to revive political and bureaucratic control of police instead of depoliticising it through institutional safeguards.
Firstly, the composition and functions of oversight bodies, known as the public safety commissions, had been distorted to give an edge to the ruling parties, he said.
Secondly, he said, the independent police complaints authority had not been provided for effective external accountability of the police, as it had been merged with the public safety commissions.
Thirdly, administrative and operational autonomy of police command had been undermined by disregarding recent verdicts of the SHC and SC, he added.
“If the government cares for rule of law, they should have revived the Police Order as was promulgated on Aug 14, 2002 and should have complied with the court orders in terms of administrative and operational autonomy,” suggested Mr Khosa, who had also served as the director general of the Federal Investigation Agency.
“This is unfortunately a blatant disregard of interests of the citizens who want the police to be depoliticised, highly accountable, autonomous and service-oriented,” believed Mr Khosa. “This move of the Sindh government appears to establish law of the ruler rather than the rule of law.”
No attention paid to IGP’s concerns
On May 18, IGP Dr Syed Kaleem Imam had sent a letter to top provincial authorities over a host of issues, but they paid no heed towards it and instead passed the law the same day.
The IGP was of the considered view that the Police Order was “inconsistent” with the decisions of the apex court as it gave “arbitrary powers” to the provincial government to remove the IG, thus undermining the administrative and operational autonomy of the police.
Furthermore, the new police law would also likely adversely affect the “impartial and fair accountability” of the police as composition of proposed safety commissions and public complaints authorities had been changed as compared to the “original” Police Order 2002, which may increase “politicisation” of such institutions as these were tilted in favour of the treasury benches instead of being “balanced”.
Moreover, granting the home minister powers to transfer investigation may also “compromise” the impartial probe. And increasing the role of deputy commissioners and the home department in law and order affairs may create “bureaucratic bottlenecks” for police.
The provincial police chief was of the view that the law was not in conformity with the judgements of the SHC in CP-7097 of 2016, which was upheld by the SC as these judgements laid the “principles for administrative and operational autonomy of the police” with particular reference to the powers of the IG as head of the department.
‘No security of tenure’
The IGP pointed out that Article 12 of the new law negated the apex courts’ judgements, which “settled” the issue of the tenure of the IGP, as the new law gives “arbitrary authority” to the provincial government to repatriate the police chief to the federal government, which meant there would not be security of tenure.
“It will make the police leadership very weak and uncertain and will have far-reaching consequences for the senior command and operational efficiency,” argued the IG in the letter.
The SHC had allowed “premature” transfer of the IGP “only on compelling grounds” but regrettably the new police law gave “open-ended power” to the government to remove the police chief.
The letter pointed out that the SHC in its judgement laid down principles that the IGP must have independent control over the postings and transfers to end all kind of external influence “even by provincial govt”.
PA’s right to legislate defended
However, former advocate general Sindh Zamir Ghumro termed such concerns of police “unjustified”.
“Police officers serve at the pleasure of the government being a force and they need to be under the civilian authorities in order to avoid a police coup,” he told Dawn.
Barrister Ghumro argued that a provincial assembly or parliament could not be fettered in legislation by the judiciary or any other authority.
“The Sindh Assembly has enacted an effective law to make police accountable to the people and government as it involves not only huge financial outlay but protection of life, liberty and honour of citizens,” he said.
He believed that the SHC had allowed IGP to exercise transfer and posting powers for an “interim period” until the Sindh Assembly enacted a law.
The senior lawyer claimed that the powers of transfer and posting even under the new law will be exercised by the IGP but after getting approval of the chief minister.
He said that the public safety commissions and complaint commissions at the provincial and district level were “akin to practice of the United Kingdom”.
“Police have been given functional as well as financial autonomy,” he said. “We need not create a police state which is not accountable to the people, as powers and authority under the Constitution are to be exercised by the elected representatives.
“An impression of violation of court judgements is misplaced as the new law grants operational space to police,” he added.
“However, police want to be independent of government, which is not possible as it would be a state within the state and it must be avoided,” said the former AG.
He contended that the Sindh Assembly could not legislate at the wishes of anybody and no fetters could be applied to lawmaking.
The police had argued before courts that the Police Order, 2002 was a good law, which had been re-enacted with “minor amendments”.
“Only in Sindh, police want a law of their choice, although it’s the prerogative of the provincial assembly.”
However, a senior police officer, who wished not to be named, told Dawn that it was not correct that “minor amendments” had been made in the Police Order.
The officer pointed out that under Article 142, police law is concurrent law like the Criminal Procedure Code, Pakistan Penal Code and Evidence Act and under Article 143 of the Constitution, the provincial government can make “minor changes” in a concurrent law. But the newly passed law had changed the “spirit” of the police law, he added.
Published in Dawn, May 21st, 2019