Regional Police Officer Ehsan Sadiq said that civil justice system in Pakistan is cumbersome and expensive therefore, recourse to civil courts for settlement of disputes has gradually declined.

Pakistan’s criminal justice system seems offender-focused and rights of victims are often neglected, he said during an exclusive talk to The Nation here on Friday.

In the community, there was an informal system of dispute resolution, mediation between individuals and groups which has become either ineffective or redundant, he added.

“Due to this factor, the people resort to police because police are visible and have prompt powers, which motivate citizens to seek police intervention even in non-policing matters. Due to this influx, the police feel overburdened and unrelated to these issues. Even if they respond it, is either due to financial incentives or through some influence. Due to the practice which tarnishes the police image, the citizens’ sufferings remain unsolved. Apart from this, disputes get aggravated,” he said.

He noted, “There is no response to the complainants though they run from pillar to post for justice. Such are vagaries of the existing system that often a victim feels being re-victimised at different stages of the administration of criminal justice. If one succeeds in approaching the police station, he/she has to face the traditional police behaviour. Therefore, with police attitude at the stations, sometimes, it becomes a haunting experience for sensitive and self respecting people.”

He said that other vices for which the police stations are accused are corruption, highhandedness and misconduct. The policemen are not service-oriented to citizens. They do not perform their duties with responsibility/obligation to serve the people, he said.

Sadiq said that to resolve these issues, a new system of Victim Response Officers in Bahawalpur Region had been introduced. He said that the appointment of victim response officers in Bahawalpur Region is remarkable step towards changing the traditional Thana culture, rebuilding police image and winning the trust of people. They are rendering services.

He said that in this system, these officers are responsible to receive every person whether complainant or coming the police station requiring any police service. They must enter the particulars of every person coming to police station and his purpose of visiting the police station. They had been bound to solve the matters of minor/trivial nature of public by visiting the place of dispute and solve it which usually does not require police interference. They will refer the complainant of cognizable offences to the SHO for necessary legal proceedings. They had been given the duty to provide guidance to people regarding the nature of their complaints and the right path they should adopt for the redressal of their grievances, he said. He maintained that VROs were acting as a change agents and representatives of police regarding community policing. They had been made bound to give the complainants feedback on their complaints and the proceeding being taken, he said.

The RPO further said that victim response officers are provided with a motorcycle, stationary and separate office in police stations. They are exempted from other duties. On their request, they have been posted at nearest police stations of their residences. Although the resources given to the VROs are not sufficient however, they are delivering excellent results, he claimed.

He said that the Victim Response Officers (VROs) have been asked to take this cause as a mission. VROs are changing the traditional policing and concept of people regarding police, he also said. The job description of VROs is to solve the problems of people and to acquire the decaying trust level. “When I started the VRO’s system, the people were somehow hesitant to visit the VRO first as it was a new experience for them. However, with the passage of time, the people have got acquainted with the VROs. They have been given bands, being displayed on their uniform so that the people may identify these officers in the police stations and in the public places. He said that in the first phase, the above said tasks were given to the VROs. However, in the second phase, they will be assigned more responsibilities to provide the public with more sophisticated service regarding their grievances and police help. It was hoped that the initiative will go a long way in changing the traditional police culture and bring it in conformity with the international policing standards. He disclosed that 2,194 cases relating to the family disputes, 6,016 cases of quarrels, 2,185 cases of the financial issues had been solved by these VRO’s directly. 1,307 cases relating to the theft, 2,393 applications relating to the FIRs, 16,460 verifications of different types and 4,180 applications of miscellaneous issues had been dealt with by VROs in the last eight months.