Police reforms in Punjab was one of the election promises of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI). During its one year in power however, the Punjab Police’s brutal methods and lack of accountability have been exposed time and again, from Sahiwal to Lahore without any action by the government. Instead of working to fix the issue, Inspector General of Police Retired Captain Arif Nawaz Khan instead decided that the problem was not due to any fault in training or abuse of power, but somehow only limited to mobile phones that actually capture instances of police brutality.

The decision to ban the use of smartphones by on-duty officers was not made to force cops to do their jobs more diligently; it is a deliberate attempt by the head of the police force to cover up future transgressions made by the police and must be treated as such. Not only does this tell us that IGP Arif Nawaz Khan expects more cases of police brutality to emerge – not surprising given the way Punjab Police treats citizens on average – he is also actively looking to sweep the issue under the surface. This is tantamount to dereliction of duty – actively looking to hide crimes in the police force is an insult to the law and should be treated as such.

The government’s response – to order all police stations to submit statements ensuring that no torture cells exist inside stations, adding suggestion boxes and appointing a relationship officer to address the concerns of citizens – is not nearly enough in light of the many instances of brutality that have surfaced recently. Every action of the police force needs to be scrutinised, and the only way this can be done is if police stations, response cars and on-duty cops are consistently monitored through the use of CCTV and body cameras. What happened to the body cameras that were promised when the Dolphin Force was created?

The public and other police officers are well within their rights to document transgressions by the police through videos made on phones and the government should be encouraging the bravery of all those who step forward. IGP Khan’s notification must be rescinded. Beyond this, punishments for all police officers that have abused their power must be stringent enough to deter others from repeat incidents. PTI has often lambasted previous governments for politicising the police. This is their chance to rectify decades of mismanagement, corruption and brutality. The country will be waiting to see if the ruling party can take more steps and really make good on its promise.