KP police reforms

Published June 15, 2020
The writer is the author of Pakistan: In Between Extremism and Peace.
The writer is the author of Pakistan: In Between Extremism and Peace.

BEFORE the passage of the 25th Constitutional Amendment, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) had different administrative, law-enforcement and legal fabrics. After the amendment and the military operations, KP is experiencing another administrative and legal transition.

The successful implementation of a few reform measures led the provincial government to enact the KP Police Ordinance, 2016, which was followed by the enactment of the KP Police Act, 2017. The law was passed with the aim of making the police service apolitical, operationally autonomous and accountable to civilian oversight. It is a pioneer police law in that it entrusts the IG with complete operational autonomy.

Ideally, law-enforcement agencies are assessed on the basis of operational autonomy, public safety, service delivery and accountability. Though the 2017 act provides a framework for all such essentials, their implementation remains selective. Hence, public safety is compromised. Police Order 2002, and Section 13 (3-VI) of Police Act 2017 also provide the ‘internal accountability apparatus’ but under Police Order 2002 this either remained dysfunctional or accountability remained selective.

Section 17(6) of the KP Police Act, 2017, obligates the provincial police officer to draft an annual policing plan but this has yet to happen. Similarly, Section 22(2) of the act obligates the district police officer (DPO) to also draft an annual police plan, to be consistent with the overall provincial plan. But both are nowhere in sight, mainly due to the absence of the provincial public safety commission.

The challenges of policing in KP are unique.

Chapter 5 of the 2017 act provides for the composition and functions of the public safety commissions but inherent flaws in the composition of scrutiny committees stalled the process. To select independent members of the provincial public safety commission, the scrutiny committee has to include the chief justice of the Peshawar High Court and chairmen of the defunct Ehtesab Commission and the Public Service Commission.

However, in 2018 the inclusion of the Peshawar High Court chief justice and district judges was challenged in the Peshawar High Court on the plea that it was in violation of the principle of the separation of the executive and judiciary incorporated in Article 175(3) of the Constitution. Moreover, with the KP Ehtesab Commission later dissolved in December 2018, the position of one member of the scrutiny committee stands nullified while that of another remains sub judice.

Furthermore, improving the quality of investigations neither remained a professional priority nor was it allocated the required resources. Section 26(8) of the 2017 law makes SP Investigation answerable to the DPO. However, such subordination gives birth to duality of command that often compromises the rights and interests of the complainants.

For the first time in Pakistan, a police law provided a framework for overseeing the implementation process. Section 143 of the KP Police Act, 2017, calls for the appointment of an ‘implementation commissioner’. However, the previous implementation commissioner has completed his one-year term, and a new appointment is yet to be made.

Moreover, Section 47 allows for public-police coordination through the formation of public liaison councils. Under the law, 70 per cent of the council members are to be notified from village councils and 30pc from amongst notables. Although these councils have been entrusted with numerous functions, including assistance to the police in crime prevention, the maintenance of public order, sharing of information regarding new tenants, misuse of loudspeakers and reporting of hate speech, capacity constraints have limited their output. The discretion of the DPOs regarding the selection of councils also warrants independent monitoring.

The challenges of policing in KP are unique and the merger of the tribal areas has multiplied them. Besides crime prevention and detection, the police also have to deal with counterterrorism, counter-extremism, issues related to the merger of levies and Khasadar men with the provincial police umbrella, increased public service and the execution of a doable transition plan in Malakand and erstwhile Fata. These are a few major priorities for the ongoing transition to sustain the hard-earned peace in the province.

The present challenges can effectively be dealt with by employing honest officers, adopting long-term planning and additional resource allocation. Cosmetic and mere change of faces may not yield the dividends. Administering the tribal districts via remote-controlled policing will only end up creating a greater administrative void. The only option left is to convert the challenge into an opportunity that is best suited to the state.

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

Twitter: @alibabakhel

Published in Dawn, June 15th, 2020

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