After first receiving flak in the Sindh Assembly, the PPP government’s decision to revive the Musharraf-era Police Order 2002 has now been deemed problematic by the Association of Former Inspectors General of Police Pakistan (AFIGP) as well. Their fears of the law leading to greater political interference in the matters of the police and lesser transparency are not unfounded considering that there are clauses within that allow for greater control of the affairs of the police to the provincial and federal governments.

Pakistan’s provincial police departments are already embroiled in constant controversies ranging from corruption to political appeasement and dereliction of duty; allowing for both the political set-up and the police to have more sweeping powers is not only unnecessary, it goes against the stated aims of putting the protection of civilians at the forefront of policy objectives.

Under the Sindh government’s amended law, many safety measures such as political interference into the duties of the Inspector General of Police (IGP) and requiring warrants for entering and searching a building on the grounds of suspicion of illegal activities have now been removed. Both the federal and provincial governments can now remove the IGP if they are not seen to performing their duties adequately; however, without any clearly defined Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) or a compiled list of responsibilities the role requires, the governments can technically remove any individual from the top police post at a whim. This means that the IGP is to serve at the pleasure of the government, which would make appeasement of parliamentarians a very real issue going forward. The sheer number of cases of corruption and other felonies levelled against members of parliament at both the federal and provincial level tells us that they cannot be made custodians of a force that is supposed to treat all citizens equitably, without any exemptions.

In the case of granting sweeping powers of search and arrests to the police; the provincial government is subverting the rights of the people in its attempts to find a quick fix to the issue of the police often being unable to present actionable evidence against those it apprehends, especially in cases such as the use of alcohol, drugs and gambling. The Sindh government has turned the cardinal principle of law “innocent until proven guilty” to an automatic presumption of guilt if any suspicion is raised.

Clearly, oversight on the police is very necessary, given the state of politics in the country, but handing over the reins of the police force to politicians is a strategy that has consistently failed in Pakistan. Both the police force and politicians need greater checks and balances on them, not fewer. It is hoped that previous court judgements against granting more sweeping powers to both the police and the politicians in the sphere of controlling the police ensure that the judiciary intervenes and reverses the Sindh government’s ill-thought out move.