A reform agenda

Published May 20, 2021
The writer is former IG police and author of The Faltering State and Inconvenient Truths.
The writer is former IG police and author of The Faltering State and Inconvenient Truths.

POWER and celebrity status act like drugs, warping one’s sense of reality and weaving a web of deceit, wherein too many in positions of power come to believe that laws and rules do not apply to them. This must change. While reflecting upon our follies of the past, it is time to rethink and change course for, as Khalil Gibran said: “Progress lies not in enhancing what is, but in advancing toward what will be.”

Can our planners focus on a vision based on the concept of a care economy — health, education, housing, jobs, poverty alleviation, social welfare, justice? Can we tax the rich and give relief to the disadvantaged sections of society? We talk about Islamic humanism, but can we formulate concrete action plans around this concept of the state caring for society? While addressing structural reforms in economic sectors, ideally a charter of economy should be agreed upon by all major political parties. However, in a divisive political milieu, this appears to be wishful thinking. Can we ever think of gross national happiness by reducing the huge chasm between the rich and poor?

We urgently need an effective internal security and governance framework.

There is an urgent need to agree upon an effective internal security and governance framework. The following are some recommendations:

1) The National Internal Security Policy 2018-23 is quite comprehensive with a sound interprovincial institutional coordination mechanism. The cabinet may task the interior ministry with initiating the process of implementation, for what good are the policies if they are not to be implemented?

2) All provinces have come up with rule-of-law roadmaps. The interior ministry must coordinate with them and launch an initiative to improve the capacity of police, prosecution, the courts and prisons.

3) The Intelligence Bureau is a key instrument of support in matters related with criminal intelligence and facilitating law-enforcement agencies in combating organised crime. It should make a difference.

4) The National Counter Terrorism Authority was established in 2009 to come up with counterterrorism and counter violent extremism policies and strategies. Kinetic and CT-related measures adopted in the 20-point National Action Plan since 2015 have resulted in a 70 per cent reduction in acts of terror but specific measures against religious extremism remain unimplemented. Nacta undertook a policy review of CT NAP in 2019. Its national coordinator may brief the National Security Committee suggesting changes required for latest CT and CVE strategies.

5) The cabinet approved the setting up of a CE Commission in November 2020 and referred to its sub-committee on new legislative measures. The terms of reference may be finalised, and an independent CE commissioner appointed for three years.

6) The federal government must come up with a national strategy against organised crime. The FIA is the lead institution against interprovincial and transnational organised crimes. An inter-agency task force may be constituted to come up with a national strategy against TOC (including money laundering and terror financing). This institutional measure will also help Pakistan address FATF’s concerns.

7) FIA and NAB are premier anti-corruption institutions, with overlapping legal mandates. Unfortunately, both have been often misused for political purposes at the behest of the ruling elite and security establishment. An independent commission against corruption must be established to review their performance and introduce meaningful reforms to promote integrity, ensure neutrality and enhance professionalism of these instruments of accountability.

8) The criminal justice system is broken and requires far-reaching reforms. This involves a concerted effort by the interior and law ministries, the attorney general’s office and the Law and Justice Commission to come up with an action plan. A criminal justice commission, to be headed by a former Supreme Court chief justice of impeccable credentials is the need of the hour. 9) The National Police Bureau in the interior ministry should implement police reforms. A Police Reforms Committee constituted by the SC in May 2018, among whose members are nine retired and all the current serving IGPs, submitted its report to the Law and Justice Commission in January 2019. The report in two volumes was sent to the federal government (interior and law ministries) and provincial governments (chief secretaries) for implementation. Vested interests have scuttled the efforts to introduce meaningful police reforms.

9) Reforming the Punjab Police should be accorded the highest priority; what was achieved in KP in 2013-18 is doable in Punjab too. A start could be made by establishing an independent police complaints authority under the police law of 2002. A retired judge or police officer of unimpeachable integrity should be appointed for three years, along with six non-political members by the public service commission, to address public complaints against the police, especially at operational levels.

10) Civil service reforms are direly needed. While some measures have been recommended by the task force for restructuring of government machinery, what is really needed is to depoliticise the bureaucracy and inculcate public service ethos. This can only be achieved through security of tenures, merit-based recruitments and proper career planning.

Finally, let us frankly admit that in Pakistan we have failed to resolve the conflict between the state and the republic. Frequent military rule has resulted in erosion of democratic institutions. There is a constant tension and an undercurrent of mistrust between the military and civilian leadership. It reflects a paradox of power. The military draws a clear distinction between the defenders of state — the embodiment of the national interests — as opposed to those who are perceived as defenders of special interests, like the leadership of political parties, feudal barons and business tycoons. It is in fact a crisis of leadership and institutions. Sadly, our political leadership has often faltered in promoting good governance and setting an example of probity and wisdom in steering the ship of the state under crises. The responsibility for good governance is on the political leadership. If they think that by giving extension in service to army chiefs, they can attain stability of tenure and promote the mantra of civilian and military on same page, they are sadly mistaken. Both may be on the same page but reading different books.

Pakistan needs to choose between decline under an authoritarian state or the renewal of the vision of its founding father to be a democratic, enlightened and progressive republic. Both the state and the republic need to converge around this democratic way forward.

The writer is former IG police and author of The Faltering State and Inconvenient Truths.

Published in Dawn, May 20th, 2021



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