A new set of people are now in the driving seats in the centre and KPK, and one expects them to make good on their promises to the people. Those within the governments and the bureaucracy, who will make this possible, need to sit down and think through their strategy in a logical manner, much in the way that the armed forces carry out their planning. Tackling too many issues simultaneously would mean spreading resources in a layer so thin so as to become diluted and ineffective. Policymakers would do well to take pragmatic stock of the prevailing environment and prioritise their ‘must do’ list. Above all, they must identify those critical core areas, which if addressed with focused and unremitting doggedness, will have sympathetic, corrective effects on the collective environment. One of these areas is enforcement of laws.It was my privilege, along with a team of young scholars to be part of a research project in 1997, to evolve a roadmap of governance for Pakistan. We discovered that much of what ailed us, stemmed from lack of laying down the rules honestly. We had laws, which in the absence of being applied, were ignored and often broken to spawn an environment that hamstrung good governance. During comparative case studies, we discovered that countries of the ‘First World’ had attained this status because everything within them from government to the person on the street was regulated by observance of rules and law enforcement.We also noticed that the quality of law enforcement was directly proportional to the quality of the means of national law enforcement, i.e. the police. We were happy to discover that a dedicated and professionally competent senior Pakistani police officer had already compiled a comprehensive study in this direction. This document known as the “Abbas Report” impassionedly identified weak areas and recommended pragmatic reforms in our Police Department. We reinforced the contents of this excellent piece of work and sent it off to the quarters that could do something about our recommendations. That was the last we ever heard of our endeavour.Let us do a review of where our police stands today from public perspective. The man in the street views the ‘cop’ as a threat, rather than a protector. This stereotype has aggravated to the extent that people needing help are reluctant to enter thanas for fear of being humiliated and ‘skimmed’. Senior police officials have become inaccessible to public and corruption riddles the department from top to bottom with very few exceptions. Lodging an FIR has become an uphill task and the men in grey shirts play out their role of protectors only for those who wield authority or wealth. All of the above is a manifestation of many factors. The recruitment of this all-important force is plagued by political interference and nepotism that has taken merit to its lowest ebb. No amount of training can make efficient policemen out of this lot - which in some cases goes through a cosmetic training regimen. The police academies and training facilities, which are designed to synthesise the entry so as to retain only the best, are forced to let chaff go through their sieve. These individuals are devoid of pride and passion for they are out to serve their benefactors, project their new found authority in ways bordering on the criminal and in the process make a quick buck.While we can go on condemning law enforcement, we must also acknowledge that low pay and the economic pressure of keeping their hearths warm do play an important role in seducing them towards corrupt practices. Vector into this, a poor administration and lack of leadership skills in successive supervisory tiers and we have comprehensive reasons for the state of our police. It would, perhaps, be wise for the incoming government to locate the report mentioned in this column and read it. I am sure that implementation of its contents will lay the foundations for making the police effective, reliable and immune from all manner of political interference. It will set the course for laying down the law even-handedly, paving the way for elimination of direct and indirect crime. Significantly good law enforcement will have resonant and sympathetic effects elsewhere, making life easy for the public and for the first time in our lifetime enabling us to taste the fruits of good governance.
nThe writer is a freelance columnist.