Police powers in Sindh

May 22, 2019

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THE amendments to the 2002 Police Order in Sindh are hardly an open-and-shut case. It is a larger question of who calls the shots in policing matters. The tussle is not confined to the workings of the police. There have been other victims of the same desire to control, such as the local government system which is only a ghost of its original self. Indeed, many link this battle for control over the police in Sindh with the ideal of autonomy at all levels. Sindh’s case has been complicated by the presence of additional elements at work, such as court orders that have defied all attempts by the PPP-led setup in the province to use the services of the police to advance its own interests. The intervention in the form of the amendments that came on Saturday was due for a long time, given the frustration shown by Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah’s government. The amendments, which do not come into effect until the Sindh governor puts his seal on them, seek to take away some crucial powers from the police and place them with the elected government. For example, the proposed changes bind the IGP to get the provincial government’s approval to transfer and post senior officers in the province. What has been more vociferously criticised is that the law would give “arbitrary authority” to the provincial government to send the police chief to the federal government.

Experts have said that the new document is very different from the original one. The PPP government in the province has been blamed for destroying some of the basic features of what was hailed by some as a people-friendly law. The critics include the IGP Sindh who is on record as having objected to the change on account of its being against the spirit of the order. There cannot be any compromise on the efficiency and the independence of the police force. But it is also worrying when a provincial setup fears that it may be held hostage by hostile officials. Both these views have to be given due weight if an attempt is to be made to avoid yet another controversy about law and order in Sindh. In the end, the provincial government will have to learn to share power with others. At the same time, there should be no attempt by the centre or others to treat the Sindh setup unfairly, especially in comparison to others in the country.

Published in Dawn, May 22nd, 2019