“Written laws are like spiders’ webs, and will like them only entangle and hold the poor and weak, while the rich and

powerful will easily break through them.”

–Anacharsis

Successive governments in Pakistan have announced that once they settle down in power their number one priority would be to reform the police department. Unfortunately instead of cleaning the system, the preference of the political leadership has been to use the police department as a means to further their political ambitions. This objective was vigorously pursued both by democratically elected governments and dictatorships in this country.

Once again the government wants the people to believe that they are committed to eliminate what is commonly called thana culture in Pakistan. No politician worth his name has ever tried to talk about the political culture in this country which thrives because of the rotten institution of the police and patwaris. People experience in their everyday lives the menace of these two institutions and are helpless against their mechanism because both the thanedar and the patwari have powerful support in the form of elected representatives in this country. It is common knowledge that members of the national and provincial assemblies try to maneuver the postings of their loyalists in key positions both in the revenue department and the local police. Therefore all talk about reforms in the police department is a sham because those who are preaching and clamoring for change are the ones who are protecting this exploitative and decadent culture in the country. On the other hand, if one tries to study the working of police officials will soon discover the level of rot and incompetence that exists even in the higher echelons of the police department.

There is no concept of merit or tenure postings and a recent survey in the city of Lahore exposed that the normal posting period of an SHO was about four to five weeks not even enough for the official to recognize the issues that exist in his area of jurisdiction. The SP of a division is an important position and most of them would fail if a simple test is conducted and they are required to write a “zimni” of a case file. Recently the prosecution branch in Punjab made several recommendations lamenting the faulty process of investigation that allows hardened criminals to escape the law. Even within the police department the present system of monitoring and discipline is at best faulty and even officials holding the rank of SSP investigation have been found to falter due to their lack of knowledge of the relevant laws. Some of these officials try to run the department as if it was their fiefdom and their only concern remains to flatter their political bosses. They never bother to take any interest to provide relief to the common citizens who have to bear the wrath of the thanedar and Patwari. The recent tragedy in Pindi could have been avoided in case the SSP had been on the scene and not attending the crown prince in Murree.

Another factor that creates despondency and depression in the department remains the method in which junior officials are given wet postings for obvious reasons while their more competent seniors are ignored by the political leadership in the country. For example the present CCPO Lahore is only a DIG while normally an official of the rank of additional IG should be posted against this slot. There was a debate regarding the clash of interest in this posting because the brother of the CCPO Lahore was given a ticket by the ruling party to contest elections while his brother was holding the job of CCPO Lahore. There are many other examples in the rest of the province where officials have been posted not on merit but due to political considerations resulting in further deterioration in the performance of the police department.

It is also fashionable for successive governments to quote examples of Turkey and China as far as development and good governance is concerned but while doing so they fail to recognize that in Shanghai or Istanbul there are no police pickets after every half a kilometer. That creates an atmosphere of fear that will not allow any sane person to invest his money in such an environment of law and order. While the law and order situation in Karachi now has a mix of terrorism in it, one can identify at least two places in the province of Punjab that become no go areas after 7pm. One is the Jaranwala road and the other is on the outskirts of Kamoki tehsil. Another minus in the police is the method of punishing erring police officials because instead of following the laws the subordinate officials are punished on the whims and likes and dislikes of their seniors. A case has come to light when something was announced in the orderly room and another order issued in writing.

One strongly feels that the federal and provincial governments should have a police ombudsmen who is provided with enough instruments and powers that could streamline and reform the present system and improve the present hopeless performance of the department not only in Punjab but in all the provinces of the country. To achieve this, the government could take advice from senior officials who have now retired as to how to go about making this department an efficient machine. The objective should be to free it from the present political interference that has nearly put the police on the verge of collapse in Pakistan.

The writer has been associated with various newspapers as editor and columnist.

Email:zarnatta@hotmail.com