Adnan Falak Target killings in Karachi, violence in Peshawar and Quetta, and increasing crime rate in Punjab have once again exposed the appalling law and order situation in the country and limitations of the law enforcement agencies, especially the police. It has underscored the need to establish an effective law enforcement system. This can only be achieved, if we transform our police into a neutral and professional fighting force equipped to face threats like terrorism, political violence and organised crime. Pakistan inherited the system of policing from the British rule structured under the Police Act of 1861. The colonial police was an instrument through which the Raj maintained its grip on the native population. David Arnold in his book, Police powers in colonial rule, states: In the colonial system, the police not infrequently usurped the role of judge, jailer and executor. The order imposed by the police did not automatically square with the law with which it was habitually coupled. After independence, our civilian and military leadership shunned dozens of recommendations calling for police reforms and preferred to retain its decade-old structure. A police force with colonial mindset was a convenient tool to suppress dissent and intimidate opposition. The situation became more abysmal during the 90s when senior bureaucrats started aligning their career prospects with fortunes of political parties. Under the Musharraf regime, police brutality took a new and ugly form. Initially, he embarked on an ambitious reform agenda under which the new Police Order 2002 was promulgated. The order in its original form included some good ideas such as the formulation of Japanese-style public safety commissions, police complaints authority, independent prosecution service and public liaison committees. However, because of political expediency, Musharraf amended the original order scuttling the reform effort. During his rule the police was used against members of civil society, demonstrators and even against members of the judiciary. According to one senior police officer: "The truth is that Musharraf and his political allies have treated the police like their personal bodyguards and have used it against the public in order to fulfil their selfish aims, foremost among those being their own perpetuation in power and the exclusion from power of their rivals." Many police officers complain in private that military regimes, especially that of Musharraf, strengthened intelligence agencies at the expense of the police. Moreover, corruption has severely subverted police effectiveness. Transparency International's Global Corruption Barometer 2010 has classified the police as one of the most corrupt institution in Pakistan. Police officials also accept that there is widespread corruption within their ranks. Low salaries, poor facilities, long hours of duty and little accountability have played an important role in fostering corruption. Lack of resources has further retarded the operational efficiency of police. In face of all these problems, there is an urgent need for police reform. The numerical strength of the police should be increased; it should be equipped with modern equipment and forensic facilities; salaries of police personnel should be substantially increased; and the coordination between intelligence agencies and police should be improved. Public liaison committees and Public safety commissions envisaged in the original Police Order 2002 may be constituted. To curb political interference in police work, the necessary legislation may be enacted. Transfers, postings and promotions should be made strictly on merit. The role of paramilitaries may be limited to border area and police infrastructure be strengthened throughout the country. Surely, these reforms will enhance our internal security, improve public confidence in the police and strengthen the working of the democratic regime. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in its report on police reforms stresses: "Few reforms would make more of an impact on Pakistan's security and political situation than reforming the civilian security forces, particularly the police. Only a strong police force can prevent the extension of radicalism by tackling the problems at the grassroots level. Only a strong police force working with local administration and judiciary can provide long-term security." The writer has served as the editor of The Gazette. Email: adnanfalak@gmail.com