LAHORE: Inspector General of Pakistan Railways Police Wajid Zia has strongly opposed the PTI government’s proposal to shift Pakistan Railways Police (PRP) to the provinces and Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT), declaring that it would leave a devastating impact on the national strategic interests and federal status of the organisation.
The IG Railways opposed the scheme after the Task Force on Austerity and Restructuring of the Government initiated a proposal for decentralisation of the PRP, reverting it back to the old system which was in vogue before 1977.
The recommendations were prepared by the task force headed by Adviser to Prime Minister on Institutional Reforms and Austerity Dr Ishrat Hussain while taking the railways ministry on board.
The federal government had sought views/objections from the chief executive officer/ general manager of Pakistan Railways and its police authorities to submit the same to the prime minister through cabinet division for final decision.
In his strong-worded letter to the federal government, the IG (PRP) said the experiment/adventure of decentralisation of railways police would have a long-term drastic impact and techno-legal consequences for the [railway] department, especially during war time.
Says police should be made separate executive dept and placed under interior ministry to let it work independently
The letter was written by Railways Police DIG Headquarters Shahzad Akbar on behalf of the IG.
“The proposed shifting of policing function of railways to the provincial police organisations is actually reverting back to the old system, which was in vogue before 1977,” reads the letter/reply of the IG to the federal government. (A copy is also available with Dawn).
Mr Wajid Zia strongly recommended to the federal government that the PRP should be a separate executive department and be placed under the interior ministry to let it work independently in the national interest.
Highlighting its background, Mr Wajid said the provincial police organisations used to secure railways operations in their respective territorial jurisdiction resulting in compromising on security and related services.
Consequently, through deliberations and taking provinces into the loop, a new centralised policing system for railways was created vide Ordinance 1976 which was further enacted as PRP Act 1977 and it was in accordance with the best practices being followed in various countries including India (having similar railway system and related problems).
“In India also, railway policing system was centralised after independence because of the fact that system of policing railway operation by respective provinces in their territorial jurisdiction was not delivering effectively,” he said.
In this system, officers of the rank of director general, additional director general and inspector general are administering Railway Protection Force and GRP for performing similar tasks/functions; which are assigned to railways in Pakistan.
“If the scheme was materialised in letter and spirit, the unity of command will be affected and railways protection will be one of the least priority of provincial police, as police is over-occupied and bogged down in routine law and order and crime related issues to the depth; thus jeopardising railway operations,” warned the railways IG.
He further said the decentralisation of PRP would create a conflict of territorial jurisdiction amongst the police of four provinces/various districts as their functionality is limited to provincial boundaries whereas PRP is taking cognisance of crimes during journey from north to south and vice versa including the crime of transportation of prohibited arms, ammunition, narcotics, robberies and human trafficking etc.
The PRP is providing safety to passengers and goods in transit by trains, protecting railway infrastructure including key points and MOD lines notified by the ministry of railways.
It is also preventing and detecting general crimes in its territorial jurisdiction notified by the railways ministry and the matters connected therewith.
The PRP has also been tasked with the security of Chinese engineers/personnel working in different railway formations and the security of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project, he said.
It is a specialisation attached department essentially required for other international projects of CPEC to be launched in future.
“The importance of security of CPEC and corresponding trade through it cannot be over-emphasised and it can only be achieved with a dedicated and professional policing system,” reads the letter.
Since the PRP has been highly dedicated and professional in its working, it was guarding special areas that include large-scale union activities proceed under IRA-2012, costly store and material in the railway workshops and acting as a first responder to prevent encroachments upon costly railways lands.
Round the clock, it escorts thousands of passengers, goods trains and protects their accompanied crew.
“Divulging this specialised responsibility to provincial police will erode railway operations and result in a totally compromised security scenario for railway systems,” said Mr Wajid.
On the model of Pakistan Railways Police, he said, the National Highways and Motorways Police was constituted which were responsible for the safety and security of people journeying by road networks.
This crime management across mobile jurisdiction whether on roads or on railways is globally looked after by specialised national police organisation like motorways police and railways police.
The IG said it was this need that both in India and Pakistan, a separate railways police system was created.
“In view of the above, it is strongly recommended that PRP should be continued as a separate national policing body to look after and protect railway system and it should be created as separate executive department which may be placed under ministry of interior so that it works independently for serving the national interest in a better way as it is a controlling ministry for many such forces/security apparatus such as the Rangers, FIA etc,” reads the letter.
In the light of above aspects, the matter of reorganisation of Pakistan Railways Police may kindly be decided by the competent authority in the larger public interest as well as national and strategic interest of the country, the IG concluded.
Published in Dawn, November 15th, 2019