The police is an organized civil force which necessarily represents the authority of the state in any country. Its primary functions are to enforce the law, protect the lives and property of the citizens, prevent and solve crimes. In order to enable police to effectively perform these functions, the state essentially delegates its authority to the police, including the ‘monopoly on violence’ or monopoly of legitimate use of physical force. Being directly connected to the general public, this agency has inherent capacity to proactively challenge and prevent the potential foul play in any society.

In Pakistan, with 350-400 thousand active personnel, there exists an extensive police network comprising some 1500 police stations across the country. But unfortunately, despite being in a ‘state of war’ for more than a decade, Pakistan has yet not seriously considered to employ this security apparatus to effectively curb the extremism, militancy and terrorism in the country. Nor has it ever made any significant endeavour to mobilize or increase the institutional capacity of the police force to meet this challenge. In fact, all the current domestic counter-terror operations in Pakistan are being carried out by the military and paramilitary personnel, or the newly-established special counter terrorism force.

‘Clear and hold’ is an important counter-insurgency (COIN) strategy in which military personnel, while winning the support of the populace, clear an area of insurgents and guerrillas by military force before the local police can firmly re-establish there the complete authority of the state. Now Pakistan’s armed forces have successfully cleared the FATA and KPK province of miscreants after the successive kinetic military actions. Similarly, in Baluchistan, military and para-military troops have broken the back of foreign-sponsored insurgency in the province.

In Karachi, the military-backed operations have also significantly busted the obnoxious nexus between the crime and politics. Now, it is quite advisable to establish the complete writ of the state in these areas through effective policing. In the same manner, after abolishing the Frontiers Crime Regulations (FCR) in FATA and the B category areas in Baluchistan, the ordinary law-enforcement apparatus of the state should also be extended to these parts of Pakistan in the best interest of the state.

The police can play a crucial role in curbing terrorism in Pakistan. In fact, the National Action Plan contains certain points that simply relate to the ordinary functions of the police. Had we effectively mobilized our police force in the country, we wouldn’t have felt the need to incorporate some basic points in the NAP to combat terrorism. Independent of the NAP, the police take certain actions to curb extremism and terrorism under the law of the land. Under The Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997, the police officials can apprehend, detain and investigate any person involved in the ‘Scheduled Offences’: actions intending to stir up sectarian hatred; displaying, publishing and distributing such written material; using abusive, threatening or insulting words; attacking religious congregations and places of worship etc. The government can proscribed any organization or individual involved in terrorist or violent sectarian activities by placing them in the prescribed lists maintained under the First Schedule or the Fourth Schedule respectively of the ATA, 1997. Afterwards, it is the duty of the police to keep a vigilant eye on such organizations and individuals.

Instead of ensuring the strict enforcement of ATA act, 1997, the federal government chosen to introduce a parallel anti-terror legislation-The Protection of Pakistan Act, 2014. Under the newly-enacted law, primary responsibilities regarding the counter-terror were shifted to the military and civil armed forces, marginalizing the conventional role of the police in countering terrorism. But ironically, owing to usual laxity and lack of commitment, the government could not enforce this law too in letter and spirit. After APS Peshawar tragedy in 2014, it readily shifted the responsibility to apprehend, investigate and try militants and terrorists to the armed forces by setting up the military courts in the country through a constitutional amendment.

In accordance with the NAP, the government has also started recruiting and training the persons for the special counter terrorism force in the county. For this purpose, Special Counter Terror Department (CTD) has also been established. However, it should not be ignored that a law-enforcement agency’s response time is most crucial in any counter-terror operation. It is only the local police which can ensure a quick response in case of any eventuality in its locality. Therefore, deputing some personnel of special counter-terror force in the big cities or at the district headquarters level would hardly help achieve the required purpose. This fact has been well observed during the recent terror attack on BKU, Charsadda, when the local police managed to reach the university campus within a few minutes, and thoroughly engaged the attackers until the military personnel arrived at the scene from the Peshawar garrison.

After the mosques, churches, military installations, government buildings, now the educational institutions across the country are also facing serious terror threats. Practically, it is almost impossible to secure every nook and cranny in the country. However, the security of these places can be ensured by providing a quick rescue response to minimize the damage in case of a terror attack. In this respect, the regular police force in each province can really make a difference. Therefore, this security apparatus should exhaustively be employed to curb terrorism before considering any alternative option in the form of special police force. However, it is equally appropriate to deploy the personnel of special force in each police station across the country to reinforce the regular police force to get better counter-terror results.

In fact, the very concept of community policing has never been attempted to introduce in Pakistan. The ‘Neighborhood Watch’ is an important component of this system whereby the ordinary members of the community are encouraged to keep an eye on each other’s activities in their locality as way of preventing crimes. This system can also significantly help Pakistan to fight a typical fourth generation war as the terrorists cannot be easily distinguished from the ordinary citizens in the community. This kind of general public participation would also certainly help law enforcing agencies successfully accomplish various objectives in the current National Action Plan. In this respect, the assistance of thousands of recently-elected local bodies representatives across the country can also be sought to efficiently execute this new policing system in Pakistan. Similarly, the Special Branch of the police in each province should also be reorganized on modern lines by equipping it with the state-of-the-art intelligence gathering and espionage techniques.

Replacing one and a half century old Police Act, 1861, the Police Order 2002 was introduced to improve the general state of policing by making the police a ‘professional, service-oriented and answerable’ organization. However, on account of lack of political will and resolution on the part of government, this law too, like its predecessor, has failed to bring about any significant positive change vis-à-vis policing in Pakistan. Pakistan can positively meet some of its current counter-terror challenges by efficiently mobilizing its police force and employing certain effective tools of community policing in the country. The police force should adequately be provided the required paraphernalia to conveniently confront and combat the terrorists and extremists. Therefore, the federal government and NACTA should actively collaborate with the provinces to improve the institutional capacity and professional excellence of the police force to successfully achieve the counter-terror objectives.