The Politics of Police Governance

J. J. Baloch


In Pakistan, the police governance has become a crucial part of public debate since the brainstorming for raising the police as an accountable, impartial, efficient, professional and representative organisation, equal to meet the challenges of crime, disorder, terrorism, public safety and national security has begun. Pakistan police, comprising more than a half a million personnel and more than two thousand police stations all over the country, continue to struggle with their colonial legacy in a democratic state.

The political power struggles in Pakistan have centred on controlling police by those in at the helm of affairs. Democratic state’s claims for good governance can best be verified by the level of independence its political system allows for the police forces to discharge their lawful work. The police historians believe that police emerged in the first quarter of the 19th century as a statutory tool to serve the authoritarian regimes by quenching dissent and controlling the protesting crowds. To them, police became a crime responder lot later as it was raised to control anti-regime populations in Europe, particularly the United Kingdom and France.

Therefore, the emergence of police institution is linked with the authoritarian political regimes. The Same purpose also served the colonial masters in sub-continent to raise the police force in British India in the wake of 1857 uprisings which followed by Police Act 1861.

As the nature and purpose of the state’s political dispensation have been undergoing changes, so the mandate of police as order and enforcement organ keeps on changing. The challenges of national security and public safety in post-terrorism and human rights world have changed the conventional functions of police.

However, amid all fundamental rights, the public safety, as well as national security, has become the central part of the public and academic debate on policing and police mandate in the post 9/11 world. In Pakistan, the establishment of National Counterterrorism Authority (NACTA), provincial Counter-Terrorism Departments (CTDs) and adoption of National Action Plan (NAP) to fight terrorism and extremism have redefined the policing.

New policing mandate calls for new police governance models. In Pakistan, traditionally appointed deputy commissioners and home departments have been responsible for police oversight, external accountability, and justice of peace functions. However, in police order 2002 promulgated by Pervaiz Musharaf regime and separation of judiciary from executive as a consequence of supreme court judgements, police oversight function was divided among District and Session Judge (Justice of Peace), District Nazim (Funds, ACR of DPO, Annual Policing Plan), Public Safety Commission, and Police Complaint Authority to monitor police discretion and use of authority. Such police oversight system was believed to be democratic in comparison to previous authoritarian and bureaucratic model of police governance in Pakistan.

Once again the issue of legitimate police oversight has come to limelight in the wake of a number of superior court judgements on police discretion, use of force, accountability, performance, transparency in procedures, quality of investigations, impartiality, service delivery, human rights, and political interference in policing as well as police affairs. Besides this, expansion of mandate from conventional crime and public order to national security as well as public safety, police services in Pakistan are pressing demands for more administrative and financial autonomy with least political interference. As a result, the networked and multi-agency dynamics of more innovative policing to match the challenges of security oriented policing are working as wheels to take police organisation towards much independence with a focus on better professionalism and better service delivery.

As a result, the networked and multi-agency dynamics of more innovative policing to match the challenges of security oriented policing are working as wheels to take police organisation towards much independence with a focus on better professionalism and better service delivery.

However, many controversies about police governance and accountability have emerged due to undoing and redoing of 2002 police order by different provincial governments as per their political dreams and interests. Sind and Balochistan have undone 2002 police order and have reverted to 1861 Police Act. Punjab government and Khyber-Pakhtoonkha (KP) governments are redoing 2002 Police Order with some additions and deletions. KP has come up with Police Act 2017 which promises more financial and administrative independence as well as police professionalism focussed on public service delivery.

While such wave of police autonomy as a specialised and focal agency to deal with crime, public order, public safety and national security has witnessed serious disruptions in the shape of Punjab Civil Administration Ordinance (PCAO). Section 15 of the PCAO states: “The Deputy Commissioner on his own, or on the request of the head of a local government or head of the District Police, may convene a meeting for purposes of maintaining public order and public safety and safeguarding public or private properties in the District; and, the decisions taken in the meeting shall be executed by all concerned accordingly.” Besides this Pakistan Administrative Service officers went on unprecedented strike for Justice of Peace powers to be delegated to Deputy Commissioners and Assistant Commissioners. Section 16 maintains: “No public meeting, procession, assembly or gathering shall take place without prior permission in writing of the Deputy Commissioner.”

However, officers of the Police Service of Pakistan have taken this move very seriously on many counts. First, the PSP stalwarts believe that the police officers are more meritorious and professional than the officers of Pakistan Administrative service as per their competitive examination merit and as per their professional training as a specialist in crime, risk, threat, violence, and terrorism fields.

Secondly, Police service is engaged in a national campaign to get rid of all illegitimate, illegal, and undemocratic channels of police governance and oversight. PCAO has opened an unnecessary debate of closed chapter of district magistrates and deputy commissioners as the heads of criminal administration as the Criminal Procedure had “once” used to refer them. The 1973 Constitution promised separation of judiciary from the executive and in 1990s Supreme Court of Pakistan issued an order which was implemented in 2001 by General Parvez Musharaf by creating the third tier of local district government with district Nazism having powers of police oversight.

Thirdly, police order 2002 proposed delineation of DC from police affairs and came up with democratic alternatives such as elected Nazim and public safety commissions at district, provincial and national levels to institutionalise democratic and institutional police oversight. Present move of PCAO 2016 is seen as an attempt revert police progress in attaining autonomy as a specialized service for maintaining social order and public peace in the wake of the two main steps: establishment of Pakistan Motorway Police and adoption Police Order 2002, the two benchmarks which ensured departure of police from the DC-clone and politicized set-up to autonomous and depoliticized policing with Democratic external oversight system in Pakistan.

Fourthly, the 1973 Constitution of Pakistan provides a complete mechanism of a democratic mechanism for police oversight and accountability. Elected Prime Minister, his federal Cabinet, provincial Chief Ministers, their respective cabinets and superior and lower courts, institutions i.e. Public Safety Commission, Police complaint authority offer legislative, executive, service tribunals, Ombudsman office, judicial and popular democratic methods (including non-governmental pressure groups, civil society, media etc) of external police oversight the absence which is the primary argument of PAS lobby to bring police under their bureaucratic control.

Fifthly, worldwide centralization of police governance in the wake of the expansion of police mandate to national security and public safety from conventional crime control and maintenance of public order. Policing is no longer a local subject as it has conventionally been all along. National security and public safety are too important the subjects to be left to the mercy of locals or provincial governments. It does need some national input for which Police Service of Pakistan, not Pakistan administrative service, should form a primary mechanism of strategic, networked and multi agency intelligence-led approach of policing, counterterrorism and counter-extremism which is purely a criminal justice policy domain.

Lastly, policing is a highly specialised profession; it can neither be substituted with non-police agencies nor yet could it be able to serve and protect the public if placed under undemocratic and illegitimate checks. Whether it is police and crime commissioner (PACC) in England and Wales, elected Mayors of London Metropolitan Police, Public Safety Canada, Canadian Association of Police Governance, members or yet mayors of the cities in developed countries who are responsible for appointing/hiring and dismissing police chiefs, are always elected by their people. But nobody can interfere in the job of a police chief once s/he is notified; he is only assisted, facilitated, supported and supplemented then. S/He takes his or her all administrative decisions as an independent, capable and responsible professional without any external interference.

It is time for police services in Pakistan to reinvent their role and performance to give a better resistance to the forces of reversion and status quo. It would not be too late to raise the issue of Police Comissionerate in Urban cities as is in Bombay and London Metropolitan system under either provincial government superintendence or under Mayor Oversight.

Very important for the officers of Police Service of Pakistan is to work hard to get themselves posted on the secretary and additional secretary levels in their own ministries such as provincial home and federal interior departments or to struggle to get their own separate police ministry, to get all weapon/traffic licenses, street surveillance systems and public assembly management issues. Police should not delay in getting control of their non-police matters such as Secretariat slots.

To many policing stalwarts, recent PAS attempt to bring the police under their control appears to be two lane path: one reviving Deputy Commissioner (DC) and the other serving as a control mechanism of local bodies by grabbing their development budgets and their police oversight powers for provincial/federal governments.

Pakistan Police would be more than happy under the legitimate democratic check to work as a public service provider to their public rather than under any autocratic or bureaucratic setup for any political engineering.

WRITER is senior officer at Police Service of Pakistan


Author: PublicPolicyInsights

With MSc Criminal Justice Policy from London School of Economics, London, UK, J. J Baloch has 20 years of work experience. He has worked in National Bank of Pakistan as officer grade 2 from 1995 to 2000. From 2000 till date He is working at Police Service of Pakistan. As an author he has published three books: Introduction to sociology, 2000; On the Art of Writing Essays, 2016; and The Power of Social Media & Policing Challenges, 2016. On 17 March 2017 J.J. Baloch is launching his first novel: "Whiter Than White: The Daughter of The Land of Pure" which is being published by Matador publication from the UK. Besides this, he regularly blogs on Google, Facebook. He also writes articles in English newspaper Dawn and also in some other magazines.

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