The Police Act 1861 was legislated by the British in the aftermath of the First War of Independence. The British, naturally at that time wanted to establish a police force that would suit the purpose of crushing dissent and any movement for self-government. The Act remained operative for almost 50 years after the country gained independence. For all the shortcomings of the Act, the British gave their Pakistani successors a tried and tested system of civil and criminal justice. Although that system was primarily designed to protect colonial interests, it nevertheless ensured, in large measure, law and order and a functioning criminal justice system. Pakistan retained the Police Act, but provisions that did not suit the civilian and military regimes were ignored and allowed to decay. The Police Order 2002 was promulgated with the proclaimed objectives of making the police publicly accountable, operationally neutral, functionally specialised, professionally efficient, democratically controlled and responsive to the needs of the community. A tall order made up of the wishful thinking and pious hopes. It was destined to end in failure, as the pre-conditions necessary for police reform did not exist and no work had been done to meet any of the preconditions. The Police Order, therefore, should be held responsible for much of the mayhem and disorder in the country, since its promulgation by Musharraf. It is the handiwork of some damp squibs working as consultants in the National Reconstruction Bureau (NRB), crafty politicians and smart mid-career policemen looking for prospects of career promotion and flexibility of action missing under the earlier law. The Order had to be massively amended immediately after its promulgation to ensure a compliant police force ready to serve its political masters and not the people. The recruitment of personnel was completely politicised. The head of the district police was at the complete mercy of the district nazim. The nazims claimed that they were accountable and answerable only to Musharraf. As most of them were illiterate, they neither understood the law, nor cared about its enforcement. The training of policemen was far removed from their agenda. But the rot in the force had set in earlier before the promulgation of the Police Order 2002. The new set up blotted out all vestiges of police being a well trained and organised force. Meagre funds were provided in the budget for training, modernisation of syllabus used in the training institutes, training of trainers, establishment of forensic labs and special training to personnel for handling forensic work. This police force was simply not designed to do any policing work. Investigation of simple cases was beyond their capabilities. After 9/11, it was simply outgunned and out financed by terrorists. Even where the force is not involved in dealing with murdering militants, it has failed in its primary duty of maintenance of law and order, and ensuring the safety of the life and property of people. Instead of taking measures to strengthen the training academies, complete overhaul of training programmes, screening of criminals inducted in the force and exemplary training and re-training, the government has been relying on calling in the Rangers in Sindh or the Constabulary in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to carry out policing functions, which they are not trained to perform. There is little realisation in the present government that the internal threat to Pakistan, today, from the extremists is more severe than anything the nation has witnessed in 63 years of its existence. The police set-up is poorly managed by incompetent officials, who lack interest in the training of their men or getting the equipment they need. The primary reason for this state of affairs is the government's persistent failure to invest in law enforcement reform. Ironically, despite frequent internal crises since Pakistans inception in 1947, ranging from ethnic confrontations and sectarian battles to a sharp rise in criminal activity and growing insurgencies, both political and military policymakers have never given this sector top priority. Hence, poor police performance in counterterrorism and counterinsurgency is not surprising. The fact that the police successfully challenged some militant groups in Punjab, and tackled an insurgency-like situation in Karachi in the late 1990s, shows that they do have the potential to deliver the desired results when political support is present and resources are provided. Clearly, better policing standards and performance will add to the government's credibility and establish its writ more effectively in the areas, which are currently slipping out of its hands. Learning lessons from what transpired in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in recent years, especially in order to plan for any pre-emptive law enforcement actions in South Punjab, where banned local militant groups like Sipah-i-Sahaba and Jaish-i-Mohammad are resurgent, is the need of the hour. The existing mindset that bears hostility to democratic processes must change. An environment of acceptance and subservience to democratic norms must be created in the entire criminal administration system. This must get rooted in the syllabus of the training schools and academies. Bipartisan committees and sub-committees of the National and Provincial Assemblies should be tasked by the lawmakers to exercise parliamentary oversight and ensure accountability to the peoples representatives. The people have voted for democracy; they want security. The democratically-elected governments have to meet this and other demands of their constituents. Police reform should be high on their agenda. However, the elected representatives would do well to remember that reform cannot occur in a vacuum. Conditions necessary for the reforms to succeed must be created. A beginning can be made by developing a consensus that the police force must be designed to serve the public and not the party or parties in power. n The writer is a member of the former Civil Service of Pakistan. Email: