Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Reforming Pakistan's Police

After decades of misuse and neglect, Pakistan’s police force is incapable of combating crime, upholding the law or protecting citizens and the state against militant violence. With an elected government taking over power after more than eight years of military rule, the importance of reforming this dysfunctional force has assumed new importance. Elected representatives will be held accountable if citizens continue to see the police, the public face of government, as brutal and corrupt. The democratic transition could also falter if deteriorating security gives the military a new opportunity to intervene, using, as it has in the past, the pretext of national security to justify derailing the democratic process on the grounds of good governance. Major reforms and reallocation of resources are required to create an effective and accountable police service.
President Pervez Musharraf claimed national security and the need to strengthen democracy justified his 1999 coup. Police reform was to form a part of the military government’s devolution scheme, the centrepiece of Musharraf’s ostensible reform agenda. He replaced the colonial-era legislation, the Police Act of 1861, which had governed the functioning of the police since independence, with the Police Order 2002. Devised after consulting senior serving and retired police officers, that order, if properly implemented, could have been an important step towards reforming a dysfunctional organisation. Yet, like other pledges of good governance made by Musharraf and his military-led government, police reform was sacrificed for political expediency.
Amendments to the Police Order have watered down provisions that held some promise of reform, including mechanisms for civilian accountability and internal discipline, as well as guarantees for autonomy and safeguards against political interference in the posting, transfer and promotion of police officials. Six years after the Police Order was promulgated, very few public safety commissions, supposedly the cornerstone of the accountability process, were even established, and those that existed lacked enforcement mechanisms. The police remained a political pawn, with transfers and promotions used to reward those willing to follow orders, no matter how illegal, and to punish the few professional officers who dared to challenge their military masters.
The new civilian government has inherited a police force with a well-deserved reputation for corruption, high-handedness and abuse of human rights, which served the military well for over eight years, suppressing Musharraf’s civilian opposition and more than willing to accept any task – from extrajudicial killings and torture to rigging elections. With public confidence in the police at an all-time low, reform will be difficult and require time, patience and resources, yet it is a task the new governments at the centre and in the provinces will ignore at their peril, as militant violence reaches new heights.
The police and civilian intelligence agencies are far more appropriate for counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism operations than a military trained to combat external enemies. The police and the intelligence agencies under police control must be given the resources needed to tackle internal threats and crime. The international community, particularly the U.S. and the European Union (EU), should realise that helping the police and civilian intelligence agencies with training and technical assistance would pay counter-terrorism dividends. However, the Pakistan government should not just increase financial support and police numbers but also enact tangible organisational and political reforms. Political appointments must end; postings, transfers, recruitment and promotions must be made on merit alone; the recommendations of police managerial bodies must be given due weight, and emphasis placed on the police serving and protecting citizens.
Above all, democratically elected rulers must resist the temptation to use the police for political, partisan ends. While they are under no compulsion to retain the Police Order, they must ensure that its replacement is not merely a change of name. They must realise that security of their constituents and their own governments will be best ensured by a police force that is professionally run, well trained, adequately paid and operationally autonomous. If it is still used for political ends, the police force may well be damaged beyond repair, at great cost to the peace in Pakistan.
To the Government of Pakistan:
1.  Give the police and their affiliated intelligence organisations primary responsibility for internal security and greater capacity to do the job by:
(a)   increasing the numerical strength of the police;
(b)   promoting specialisation, particularly in the areas of forensic science and cyber crimes;
(c)   strengthening the counter-terrorism wings of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and making the IB the country’s premier intelligence agency;
(d)   abolishing the political wing of the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI) and removing it from military control; and
(e)   withdrawing the Pakistan Rangers and other paramilitary organisations from internal security functions, replacing them by the police.
2.  Rebuild morale, reduce corruption and increase efficiency by:
(a)   removing corrupt, inefficient or politically biased officers from senior positions and positions of authority over the police;
(b)   increasing salaries, particularly of those at the bottom of the hierarchy;
(c)   allocating more funds for improving facilities and securing the welfare of police rank and file and their families, and ensuring that increased allocations are spent on better housing and transport facilities for the rank and file, rather than the well-being of senior officers; and
(d)   providing meaningful pensions to the families of police officers killed in the line of duty and publicly recognising acts of bravery.
3.  Settle, in the long-term, the legal status of the Police Order by:
(a)     placing the order before the national parliament for detailed debate and review;
(b)     establishing a parliamentary subcommittee to examine provisions in greater detail and provide recommendations;
(c)     sending the order to the provinces for further debate, review and recommendations;
(d)     seeking the feedback of serving and retired police officials, as well as informed members of civil society; and
(e)     evolving a national consensus on how to make the police a disciplined, efficient, modern, non-partisan, service-oriented and transparent institution and framing statutory legislation based on that consensus, instead of indefinitely extending a presidential ordinance.
4.  Undertake, as an immediate first step, to make the police more accountable by:
(a)     setting up a parliamentary subcommittee on policing under the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on the Interior;
(b)     empowering the public safety commissions meaningfully by devising stringent enforcement mechanisms for police accountability;
(c)     making the selection of independent members of the commissions completely transparent;
(d)     maintaining parity between government and opposition members on the commissions; and
(e)     separating police complaints authorities from public safety commissions, thus enabling them to perform their distinct roles.
5.  Protect the police from political manipulation by:
(a)     making the appointment of senior police officials subject to the recommendation of the relevant public safety commission;
(b)     mandating the approval of the relevant public safety commission for premature transfers of senior police officials; and
(c)     withdrawing the power of the district chief nazim (mayor) to write the district police officer’s annual performance evaluation report.
6.  Improve police performance and redress public grievances by:
(a)     empowering managerial bodies like the National Public Safety Commission, the National Police Management Board and federal and provincial police complaints authorities;
(b)     facilitating the implementation of genuine community policing through Citizen Police Liaison Committees consisting of representatives of civil society, including academics, lawyers and human rights activists, with meaningful female representation; and
(c)     appointing an independent police ombudsman to investigate serious cases of police abuse, including custodial deaths and sexual offences against female prisoners.
7.  Ensure greater female presence in the police by:
(a)     increasing the number of female police stations and cells for women detainees in regular police stations; and
(b)     authorising women police officers to register and investigate cases and improving their standards of training.
8.  End military interference in police affairs by:
(a)     abolishing the military’s 10 per cent reserved quota of positions in the police;
(b)     removing serving and retired military personnel from police positions, including in the police-run intelligence agencies such as the Intelligence Bureau (IB); and
(c)     replacing the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) with the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) as the primary anti-corruption body.
To the International Community, particularly the U.S. and the European Union:
9.  Increase security-related assistance to and strengthen counter-terrorism capabilities of the police and civilian security organisations, including by equipping forensic laboratories – both existing ones and new ones that should be established – and assisting the computerisation of police records.
10.  Institute and expand professional development programs for police officers.
11.  Assist curriculum reform, and help modernise police training, with an emphasis on community policing techniques and procedures


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