Sindh police law

February 12, 2020


The writer is author of Pakistan: In Between Extremism and Peace.
The writer is author of Pakistan: In Between Extremism and Peace.

POST 18th Amendment, some quarters have questioned the status and validity of Police Order (PO) 2002 as a strictly provincial subject, which has lacked perspective of ground realities. Historically, federal law-enforcement authorities have remained active in maintaining peace in Karachi, which is why evaluating police law exclusively through the prism of provincial autonomy doesn’t seem appropriate. In a country where criminal law, evidence law and the senior police leadership (PSP) primarily belong to the federal structure — owing to internal security challenges and resource constraints faced by the provinces — it is difficult to clearly demarcate federal and provincial domains.

Even prior to the ongoing Rangers-led operation in Karachi, the city depended on federal reinforcements. Likewise, KP and Balochistan sought federal financing for law-enforcement projects such as conversion of ‘B’ into ‘A’ areas, raising the Balochistan Constabulary and the integration of forces of former Fata into the KP police.

In May 2019, the Sindh Assembly passed an amended bill; as per Article 116 (2A) it was forwarded to the governor. Following Article 116(2-B), the governor returned the bill for reconsideration to the Assembly. In June 2019, it was reconsidered, passed and forwarded to him. Since the governor did not assent within the 10 days specified in Article 116(3), the bill was deemed as passed.

The new law is known as the Sindh (Repeal of the Police Act, 1861 and Revival of Police Order 2002) Amendment Act 2019, and contains several flaws, eg the adopted law merged the previously exclusive public safety commissions and complaints commissions as a single entity. Meanwhile, Article 4 defines 22 duties of the police, including assistance to victims — but without increasing financial allocation, capacity building, and accountability; such an exhaustive list will remain an ideal. Then, Article 8 requires police departments to be organised on a functional basis, but the new law dropped the idea of ‘police accountability’ incorporated in Article 8 (2-E) in the original PO 2002. Naturally, without accountability, policing will face a public trust deficit.

How will the logical end be achieved without restructuring the police?

The inherited colonial policing model primarily catered to rural needs, although PO 2002 tried to address issues confronting both rural and urban policing. To meet urban challenges, PO 2002 introduced the concept of Capital City Police (CCP), but the recently adopted law omitted it. For big cities, Sir Oliver Gilbert Grace and Justice Cornelius recommended the commissionerate system in 1950 and 1962, which ensured functional autonomy of the police chief and improved public safety. The police committee headed by Aslam Hayat in 1985 also advised restructuring policing on the lines of a commissionerate system; they believed it would improve decision-making, response and accountability within the police. However, the adopted law seems averse to the needs of metropolitan policing.

In pre-independence Kolkata, the Calcutta Police Act, 1866, provided a way for a commissionerate system. Till independence, the city had 16 police chiefs; and after independence, 26 police commissioners were rotated. Now, Kolkata is the 15th most populated city in the world while Karachi is placed at 11. For Calcutta, the imperialists realised the need for an exclusive commissionerate system, but owing to an intense romance with the colonial-rural policing model, we seem to be enamoured of the status quo. This is apparent in the newly adopted law which has ignored the specific needs of command, operations, capacity building and public safety.

Although the National Action Plan says that the ongoing operation in Karachi will be taken to its logical end, how will that logical end be achieved without empowering and restructuring the police?

The adopted law amended the composition and selection process for members of the provincial and district public safety commissions, and the police complaints commissions. In the original PO 2002, the district public safety commission had eight to 12 members; half the members are to be district councillors, while the remaining are independent members. In the adopted law, one-third are to be elected members of the national and provincial assemblies; one-third district councillors; and the remaining independent members. Historically, district councils remained under the political influence of the party in power.

The enormity of internal security threats warrant that the law incorporate and address the needs of the CCP and reconnect the Sindh police law with the national public safety commission and National Police Bureau. To make the police true custodians of public safety, their composition needs to be amended in a way so that a balanced approach is attained while the IGP is empowered so that he has the exclusive authority to compose his team.

The writer is author of Pakistan: In Between Extremism and Peace.

Twitter: @alibabakhel

Published in Dawn, February 12th, 2020