LAHORE - The Punjab government has failed to honour its commitment regarding the establishment of 100 Model Police Stations, a key component of their election manifesto in the province. Police sources revealed that the project had virtually been shelved because of lack of funds and resources.

In early 2012, the PML-N government had announced establishment of 100 MPSs with the motto of making the police corruption-free and the province crime-free. As per the plan, the government had to set up 100 model police stations in two phases in the Punjab with the provision of modern infrastructure, computer technology, and best resources to the law enforcing agency.  The government had announced that the establishment of MPSs would improve the performance of the Punjab Police which would help the force become symbol of help and protection for the oppressed and where the outlaws could be taken to task.

Unfortunately, the government has poorly failed to make even a single model police station fully operational yet. Some old buildings are converted into ‘model police stations’ by the police department after the authorities fixed the “Model Police Station” signboard on the front of the structures. In some parts of the province, a few new buildings are declared as model police stations with old staff and old habits.

The government had also claimed that all the 26 police registers would be computerised with the help of software designed by the Punjab Information Technology Board. Similarly, the daily registers (roznamchas) of these police stations would also be computerised whereas an electronic complaint system would also be introduced for the convenience of the people. Minimum a graduate level ASI and intermediate level Head Constable would be appointed as Moharrar in these police stations. One policewoman would also be deployed at the reporting rooms in the MPSs in order to create soft image of the police force among the general public.

As a mater of fact, there is not a single police station in the Punjab province where bribe is not accepted, complainants are not harassed, and suspects are not tortured in illegal detention. Extrajudicial killings, police highhandedness, misuse of powers, and brutal behaviour are the still hallmark of the Punjab police. The credit goes to the Punjab rulers who are not interested to revamp the corruption-riddled department.

The policemen serving in the so-called model police stations are not being paid salaries as they had been promised. As if not enough, a monthly grant of Rs100000 to the stations house officer (SHO) of MPSs in big cities and Rs15000 per month allowance had been proposed. “We are getting salaries like other police officials. No increase, no allowances and no benefits,” said a police officer, who is serving as an SHO at a model police station in Lahore. The officer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, further said that the lower staff had to beg from the notable of the area to run day to day affairs of the police station. “We have to purchase stationery at our own. We have to maintain the official record at our own,” he added.

Asked about the computerized record, he laughed and said, “That are slogans but we are living in reality.”  When this scribe visited the Green Town model police station, policemen were seen fighting with mosquitoes in the reporting room and some cops were torturing an accused in custody in the next room. The lower subordinates were minting money from the motorcyclists before releasing their bikes, confiscated after the riders could not produced registration books during routine checking.

What to say about the computerized system, a duty officer was seen writing an FIR on a plain paper by-hand while another official was using a lead-pencil to fill roznamcha (daily duty chart). The government had promised establishment of 100 Model Police Stations in 36 districts of the province about three years ago. In the absence of police reforms, extrajudicial killings are multiplying and corruption in police swells to a great extent with every passing day.

The PML-N government could be given the credit for building mega projects in a short span of time like underpasses and intersections. But their leaders have completely failed to change Thana culture. A retired police officer said that the rulers in Punjab are no more interested to ensure justice at grass root level. “The police reforms are not on their agenda any more,” he added.

The station house officers (SHOs) are employed on the recommendation of influential persons and pressure groups while the district police officers (DPOs) and regional police officers (RPOs) are posted keeping in view their political affiliation. The police are politicized, thanks to the political leaders for using the force as tool to influence the society. Some police officers are also part of the problem since they are more loyal to political parties rather their parent department.

The Model Town tragedy has truly exposed the system in place. The happening highlighted how rudely police operate to perform day to day tasks. More interestingly, the incident took place in the limits of a model police station (Model Town). Authorities have now realized that had the anti-riot police been sent to confront the protesters outside Minhaj-ul-Quran secretariat on June 17, over a dozen precious lives could have been saved. The probe into the Model Town incident revealed that as the protesters pelted the police with stones, the cops retaliated with gunshots. As a result, 14 protesters were shot dead and 85 were admitted to hospital with multiple bullet injuries.

The police action not only brought international condemnations but also plunged the country into political crisis. During informal chat, some police officers say they believe “fake encounter mindset” prompted the cops to shoot the agitators. What to say about the soft policing in the Punjab province, where hundreds of alleged criminals are killed in staged encounters every year.

In their campaign manifesto, the ruling PML-N had pledged the much-needed police reforms to ensure justice for all in this society. Half of the total 750 police stations in 36 districts are functioning in rented accommodations in the Punjab province. At least 20 MPSs in Lahore had been part of the project while four in Sheikhupura, four in Sahiwal, five in Sargodha, three in Bahawalpure, four in Dera Ghazi Khan, and 15 in each region including Rawalpindi, Faisalabad, Gujranwala and Multan. The cost for the MPSs project had been estimated at Rs604 million.