Insecure police

June 07, 2020

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THE transfer earlier this week of Lahore Police’s investigation and operations chiefs has added fuel to the perennially heated debate over the level of autonomy allowed to the law-enforcement force. Voices emanating from the police department — some of those recorded in news features — speak of an uncontrollable urge on the part of the executive in Punjab to toy with official postings. And in this game that the provincial set-up is accused of constantly engaging in, senior policemen are the most frequent victims. This is also the case in other provinces where police find themselves subject to the whims of the government, making it difficult for them to carry out their duties honestly. Those who try to do their job are publicly humiliated. At a time when the virtues of modern governance are often stressed as crucial to the democratic functioning of the state, the image of the police force leaves a lot to be desired. There must be accountability of all at all stages and the misuse of power must be dealt with with an iron hand. But at some point, the government will have to find a way to ensure security of tenure for a police officer involved in the delicate work of enforcing the law against great odds. That task will be difficult since it would require pulling the current chief executives out of their insecure zones.

It is about time we moved to the next point — if the ever-widening rift between the exploiting politicians at the helm and the easily used police officers allows us to. No one seems to take into account the negative effects that the constant reshuffling of the police force, including very visible public officials, can have on the public. The people are likely to view all abrupt police transfers not only with suspicion, but also fear. The more the number of such transfers in a city, the greater the number of insecure police officers there will be. A city with so many insecure officers will also be insecure.

Published in Dawn, June 7th, 2020