LAHORE - Arif Nawaz Khan, the new Inspector General of Police in Punjab, faces a host of complex issues; from political turmoil to terrorism and rising crime rate to rampant corruption.

After months-long deliberations, the additional inspector general of police was picked from a few senior most officers to lead the country’s largest law-enforcing agency. Khan is regarded as a seasoned and hardworking officer who never compromises on discipline and merit. The retired army captain assumed the IGP office one day after a strong bomb ripped through a busy market in the heart of Pakistan, Lahore, killing 26 people including nine policemen.

Of course, boosting morale of the terror-hit police force is one of the major challenges for the new chief. But there is not a single police station in the province where police are not bribed. Perhaps, Police is the only department in which officials bribe their colleagues or seniors to skip duties and get other favours.

This is not all as fake police encounters, deaths in custody, misuse of powers, and faulty investigations still remain the hallmark of the provincial police. And being chief of the Punjab police, Khan is supposed to clear the mess during his three-year long tenure.

In recent years, the government has successfully introduced some important initiatives to improve policing in the biggest province. The establishment of Front Desks at police stations, Dolphin Squads, Police Response Units, Anti-riot units, modern operation rooms, and integrated command, control, and communication center are a case in point.

Last week, Arif Nawaz Khan visited the Lahore’s Defence-A police station to check the police working. CCPO Muhammad Amin Wains and DIG Operations Dr Haider Ashraf also accompanied the police chief, who was also briefed about various development projects, underway in the metropolis.

The IGP lauded the efforts of Lahore police for developing IT-based projects including Hotel Eye, Local Eye, Welfare Eye, and other software designed with the help of Punjab information technology to monitor the security of high-rise buildings and key government installations.

On this occasion, he said that the modern technology was helping his department in many ways particularly in the capacity building of the police force. Therefore, he said, the IT-based initiatives would be replicated to all districts of the province in the future.

Former army captain, Arif Nawaz Khan, took over as inspector general of the Punjab police just a day after a Taliban suicide bomber targeted a group of police officers in Lahore’s Kot Lakhpat area. At least 26 people including eight policemen died and 70 others wounded in the latest bombing which shook the metropolis on July 24.

In mid February, at least 14 people including six police had died and over 80 wounded when a suicide bomber blew himself up close to a group of police officers at the Faisal Chowk on Lahore’s The Mall. Taliban had asserted responsibility for the bombing. Lahore’s chief traffic officer (DIG) Syed Ahmed Mobeen and SSP (Operations) Zahid Akram Gondal were among the six policemen who died in the line of duty. Some 58 persons were also wounded the terror strike.

As the officer took the charge of his new assignment, he announced that the department would mark the national “Police Martyrs Day” on August 4 to pay respect to the martyrs. On Friday, the Police Martyrs Day was observed across the province. Special ceremonies, candlelight vigils, and rallies were held to remember the sacrifices of police.

In Lahore, the main ceremony was held at Alhamra Hall. A large number of people, top police officers, relatives of the martyrs and community leaders and activists attended the ceremony.

Speaking on this occasion, IGP Khan paid rich tributes to the officers who died in the line of duty. “I salute all martyrs who sacrificed their lives in the line of duty, to save lives, honour and properties of citizens,” he said. “It is a matter of honour and pride for me that I am commander of a force, which is heir to more than 1,400 martyrs.”

The provincial police officer said that a DIG rank officer was available at the Central Police Office to look after welfare of the families of the martyrs and solve their problems at their doorstep. Similarly, a DSP rank officer is working at the district level to facilitate martyrs’ families, he added.

The officer last week also chaired the first regional police officers conference at the central police office. On this occasion, Khan directed the officers to carefully compile the lists of hardened and habitual criminals. The field officers were also directed to launch a full-scale crackdown on criminals from August 1st.

“I shall personally monitor this campaign against criminals,” the IGP said. “This crackdown must be based on proper analysis regarding nature of crime, timing and modus operandi of the criminals.”

He also urged the regional and district police officers to improve efficacy linked to random snap checking, picketing and patrolling at every level. “There must be absolute coordination and efficiency in the ongoing crackdowns at every level,” reiterated the police chief.

Khan also warned that there was no place in the department for the policemen involved in crimes and patronising the criminals. “Such police officers and officials particularly DSPs and SHOs would be taken to task,” he said straightforwardly.

On the other hand, armed robberies have become order of the day across the province particularly in the big cities. Some 6,000 armed robberies took place in the Punjab province during the first six months of this year, according to latest police data. Also, more than five gunmen were involved in some 334 dacoities registered with the provincial police from January to June. The rising crime rate exposes the police performance in the biggest province where many victims of armed robberies don’t report to the police due to one or another reason.

Insiders say they believe the new police chief has started secret monitoring of officers serving in his department by separating the efficient and honest policemen from the corrupt and incompetent. Officials familiar with the development further say Khan will do every possible to ensure strict accountability, merit, and discipline in the police force.

If the new IGP is really interested in improving the policing, he must not bow before political pressure and continue transparent accountability within the department. He will have to fight against the pressure groups and mafias.

Arif Nawaz khan has got a best chance to clear the mess. During his three-year tenure, he can put the largest law-enforcing agency on the right track by completing the ongoing projects on time and launching new strategies to fight terrorists and criminals in an effective way.

ASHRAF JAVED