Police volte-face

May 29 2020


SINCE the beginning of this year, events in Shikarpur, Sindh, offer an object lesson in why governments are so keen to have local law enforcement in their pocket. In January, a leaked report by SSP Shikarpur Dr Rizwan Ahmed exposed an alleged nexus between hardcore criminals and Sindh Energy Minister Imtiaz Sheikh that had rendered the area a haven for illegal activities. The PPP immediately declared the contents of the report as being a complete fabrication and a brazen attempt to malign its party’s MPA. The police authorities, however, stood by the SSP, and asked for a JIT to further probe the allegations and make recommendations to shield the LEA from “extraneous pernicious influence”, ie political interference in police postings. This created yet another point of friction in the already fraught relationship between the provincial police and the Sindh government. The provincial inspectors general of police are federal appointees and the Sindh government had been trying for some time to have then IG Sindh Dr Kaleem Imam removed and an official more ‘amenable’ to it appointed in his place. It finally managed to effect a change of command and now a committee is to be set up to probe the veracity of the report itself — an about-turn if ever there was one.

When the police acts as handmaiden to the political leadership, the repercussions for the rule of law are dire. Instead of working to ensure the safety and security of the people’s lives and property, a politicised police facilitates violation of the law for the benefit of its de facto bosses and their cronies. In the process, it becomes wholly complicit in a variety of criminal enterprises. Whether land-grabbing, gunrunning, drug smuggling, etc local police can be found to have a finger in every pie, protecting the interests of various mafias through brute force. While the above-cited example relates to Sindh, the fact is every provincial dispensation — except perhaps KP to some extent — tries to keep the police on a short leash. The PTI-ruled Punjab has seen no less than four IGs changed since the party came to power at the centre in 2018. Police officials should not be transferred on political grounds; security of tenure must be respected; and any allegations against them of misconduct or dereliction of duty transparently investigated. There are many upright police officers but they can truly serve the people only when their independence is guaranteed.

Published in Dawn, May 29th, 2020