LAHORE: Cabinet committee constituted by the Punjab government for reviewing the Police Order 2002 met on Thursday and decided to delegate the issue to three sub-committees.

A cabinet committee headed by Law Minister Rana Sanaullah Khan and comprising Minister for Youth Affairs, Sports And Tourism Jehangir Khanzada, Adviser To Chief Minister Rana Maqbool Ahmad, senior advocate Khawaja Haris, Punjab’s former Advocate General Mustafa Ramday, IG police, Home secretary, Public Prosecution Secretary, Law Secretary, Additional IGP, Lahore Capital City Police Officer, Services & General Administration Department (S&GAD) Secretary and the Special Secretary (law & order) to chief minister office was announced a couple of days ago.

The first sub-committee comprises former IGP and advisor to the CM Punjab Rana Maqbool Ahmad as convener while Secretary Prosecution Ali Murtza, AIG Finance Shoaib Dastgir, Special Secretary Home Dr Shoaib Akbar and any other member co-opted by the sub-committee as members.

Its TORs will be whether the Police Order makes sufficient and practicable arrangements for democratic accountability without compromising the ability of the police to perform its functions in a non-partisan and effective manner; whether the arrangements pertaining to Public Safety Commissions and complaints regarding police are in accordance with best and latest practices in the UK and other similar jurisdictions and whether the Police Order provides for meaningful external oversight of police/policing services.

The second sub-committee comprises of IGP Punjab Mushtaq Ahmad Sukhera as convener while officer to be nominated by the CPO to be nominated by the IGP, additional Prosecutor General and any other as members.

Its TORs include whether Police Order/Law makes provision for police standards in areas of investigation, public order management and police responses to citizens’ requests; whether the Police Order/Law requires police officers to be professionally certified through an independent method of certification and training; whether the Police Order makes provision for review of performance of police officers before their appointment and at periodic intervals. Moreover, this committee will review whether the Police Order provides for a system of robust internal and external inspections or not.

The third sub-committee consists of Secretary Prosecution as convener while AIG Legal, additional secretary Judicial Home department and any other as members. It will look whether the Police Order makes provision for cooperation with prosecution services in accordance with best international practices.

Though, both the civil and police officers welcomed the decision to constitute committees to review the police order 2002, but also expressed concerns on the composition and mandate of the committees. An Additional Deputy Commissioner said the retired or serving IGPs were heading the committees constituted for revisiting PO 2002. There should be neutral, independent and well reputed members. Police is itself a party to the issue. They must be heard but should not be sole decision makers. Civil society, being a direct stakeholder, has not been included in it.  The TORs don’t include issue of coordination between the police and chairmen/mayors or Civil Administration. Can the IGP being the head of police review progress of its department, he questioned. This is an occasion for subjecting police to external performance audit. Since the promulgation of police order 2002, is there any improvement in thana culture, is there any reduction in crime rate i.e. murder, robbery, theft, abduction, extortion, and car-lifting. Are minorities are more secure in Punjab? Moreover, the committees are not mandated to review /suggest measure for eradicating corruption in police. The Anti-Corruption Establishment (ACE), with humble paraphernalia, is too poor to have check on corruption in police.

An additional secretary who also served as DCO also requesting anonymity said that the CM Shehbaz Sharif has rightly targeted the patwari culture by replacing it with Punjab Land Records Computerization system but thana culture has not been touched. Cosmetic measures taken by the police in the name of front desks have only brought new offices and new furniture but not new police culture. Despite considerable increase in budget, pays, allowance, vehicles, establishment, performance of police has remained abysmally poor. PO 2002 has only increased perks, privileges and promotion of police but not its performance.

KP has strengthened police administratively and financially but failed to check its accesses, he averred. MPAs of KP, in the recent meeting of committee constituted for relooking police ordinance 2016 has lodged plethora of complaints about wrong doings, corruption and excesses of police. Despite much-taunted independence to police in KP, ground reality has not improved desirably. Side by side with operational autonomy, police must have external check and balanced mechanism. This would bring discipline, responsibility and accountability in the police.

A senior police officer said that there was enough check on police force. “Police have to face the judiciary on daily basis. Many of the force personnel have been arrested and put behind bars on judicial orders. The police personnel fight terrorism and the criminals across the province.

“The police are directly on the point of aim of public criticism while the civil administration enjoys prestige among common people,” he commented. He said that it was the government weakness not to establish Public Safety Commissions, a prerogative of the PO 2002. “They (the DMG) were heading all the departments, authorities, ministries, companies, autonomous bodies. What benefit is there for the common man,” he questioned. He said that the DMG wanted control over police by either grabbing Justice of Peace (JoP) powers or by restoring magistracy by all means. He said that the government could appoint anyone as JoP as the government of Sindh and KP did.

Prof Dr Naeem Ahmad, a teacher, social worker and an analyst said that it was a fight between two mighty services i.e. the PSP and the PAS. “The common people will suffer and lose ultimately. The need is to change the thana culture but government despite its tall claims has failed to bring about change and now the matter had been entrusted to the committees,” Dr Naeem was of the view.

A Federal Secretary said that it was imperative to develop harmony among the civil, police and elected bodies at district level which is missing altogether. “How a district without its captain will withstand pressure of terrorism, being perpetrated by banned outfits,” he questioned. The government should put both the police and the DC under the elected District Chairman or Mayor to ensure law and order as General Musharaf did.

Devolution plan of Musharaf is already dead. Government has enacted PLGA2013 in consonance with its political mandate. This is for the first time that political set ups at all level i.e. district, province and federal, are in operation in accordance with laws framed by civilians instead of dictatorial regimes. Police order 2002 should also be reviewed in accordance with the aspirations of people. An oversight over police at district level would really make the difference and fill the gap between people and police, he suggested.