Elite officers trained to purge Punjab’s police of corruption and brutality, are languishing idle in thanas throughout the province. The officers are among more than 400 selected last year from 70,000 candidates to lead a ‘cultural revolution’ in policing in Pakistan’s largest law enforcement agency.

Officials claim that the government’s plans for a policing revolution are being sabotaged by senior officers at the central police office. The Punjab government has invested heavily in training the officers who were posted to police stations throughout the province earlier this month to kick-start the reforms. However, not a single trainee has been given command of a thana or put in-charge of an investigation wing.

Instead, most have been given only minor assignments and been left without any significant police work to do. They simply have no power to take initiatives. Broken promises of command have raised questions over the government’s sincerity in reforming the police, where new recruits have said that the Chief Minister’s plans are being thwarted by a strong ‘mafia’ of corrupt and lawless officers who feel ‘threatened by the deployment of highly-trained officers selected on merit’.

A spokeswoman for the Punjab Police however rejected the complaints and said the new recruits were still in the process of being trained and will be “posted as SHOs and heads of investigation wings once they complete the (required) A, B, and C courses”. But will this solve the blatant failure of police reforms? A number of station house officers dismissed for corruption, misuse of power, and negligence in recent years have later been reinstated following political pressure. Overall, the picture that emerges is dismal.

Most of our young police officers are suffering from conceptual ambivalence and skepticism, even at times, cynicism, about the statements, behaviour and policies of the top police leadership. Unless police reform is swiftly incorporated into the national agenda, nothing can be done about the deterrent state of police rule. In administration, the change has to come from the top. Unprofessional and inefficient senior officers must also be reformed, or fired.