They emerged from the Civil Lines Police Station on their white heavy motorcycles spreading fear of law amongst traffic violators - from a ‘tonga’ driver to the high and mighty. They were the ‘Anglo – Indian’ traffic sergeants of Lahore, who had chosen to stay behind and carry on with their duty in the newly created State of Pakistan. Handsomely tall, impeccably turned out, dedicated to their profession and superbly fit without an ounce of fat, they laid down the law evenhandedly regardless of rank and status, even ‘booking’ the sitting Governor, for a traffic infringement. These men, who hailed from a different culture and faith, manifested outstanding leadership qualities, ‘infecting’ their subordinates with integrity, passion to deliver and pride in their uniform. Then came a time, when these amazing individuals retired and sensing growing intolerance, left the country to raise their descendants in an environment of peace and security.

After the demise of our Founding Father and the assassination of the First Prime Minister, Pakistan’s political elite went on a rampage in pursuit of wealth and power. With nothing to deter them, our politicians had no difficulty in corrupting the administration and police to become their lackeys. They accomplished this through nepotism and preferred induction, postings and transfers, promotion and career based penalisation of the few, who dared to resist their bidding. The inevitable consequences were that these institutions were destroyed beyond repair. It was the police in particular that assumed a role of ‘mafia enforcers’. Public protection, mitigation of crime and enforcement of law (the three point mandate of any police force in the world) was callously ignored and replaced by protocol duties, security of VVIPs (including disqualified ones) and protection of excesses (even criminal ones) by those, who had taken oaths to make ‘good laws’. In reality, our police is now viewed as a private limited company, where the ‘seth’s’ word is law.

In sharp contrast to the sergeants featured at the beginning of this piece, our cops have stereotyped themselves as inefficient, obesely unfit, unkempt and lacking the basics of courteous conversation. When viewed from a professional perspective, their apathy can only be attributed to poor aptitude and poorer leadership – a point often proved by short period of improvement, which soon disappear as some dedicated officer takes office and is speedily replaced since he has dared to say and do what is right.

The Chief Minister in the Land of the Five Rivers, very naively thought that a redesigned uniform could alter the character of his cops or (if media reports are to be believed) the change of attire was necessitated by other motives. Whatever be the case, our law enforcers have not only lost credibility, but acquired a reputation that lacks a decent description. It is only in KPK that some radical reforms have restored some trust between the people and their police. This has not been easy, as it has involved eliminating linkages with politicians. It has nonetheless been accomplished with a large measure of success.

The KPK case study goes to prove that depoliticising this institution is perhaps the single, most critical step towards reforming it. I have all along been of the view that professional and ruthless law enforcement, free of pressures from the corridors of power, will impact on almost every ill that plagues our society, creating an internally stable Pakistan. This can only happen if the force is made autonomous and its induction system is radically revamped to enable merit based recruitment.

A look at prevailing police systems in the world will reveal models that can be successfully emulated, but this will only be possible when this particular institution is freed from political intervention and influence. Perhaps the recent wave of realisation generated by the Zainab Case will act as catalyst towards cleansing our law enforcement structure. We may well see in our lifetime, the long awaited change set in motion by a little girl, whose unforgettable sacrifice was not in vain.

 

The writer is a freelance columnist.