J. J. Baloch
As a critical student of policing, it makes greater sense to me to argue that Imran Khan is the only civilian politician in the history of our country who, for the first time, came up seriously with the idea of transforming force model of police into a service model. By so performing, he proved undoubtedly by incorporating police reforms in the electoral manifesto of his party and by bringing significant improvements of making police largely apolitical and autonomous during his party’s government 2013-18 in KP. Today KP police stand transformed and revolutionised by all standards and benchmarks of international best practices in policing.
I am writing this piece in response to the article of Mr Akhtar Ali Shah, a former senior Police officer, published in Express Tribune dated 22 July 2018, only three days before July 25 elections, under the title: KP Police Reforms: Myth or Reality. In his article, the writer has tried to establish that the KP police reforms are a myth, political rhetoric and public eyewash and instead the esteemed writer referring to his own experiences of working in the KP gives credit to ANP government for their endeavours to reform the police. His main argument rests on what he refers in his article in point as the meteoric increase in police strength which he claims to have been 134% during ANP tenure, comparing to what he arguably admit to being 9% increase in strength of police manpower during five year period of PTI government in KP.
The claim of Akhtar Ali Shah for 134% increase in KP police strength during ANP tenure needs to be verified. Mr Tariq Parvez, former DG FIA, in his thoughtful IPR brief of February 2015 titled “An Obstacle to Police reform: Brevity of Tenure” maintains that total manpower of KP police is 55000, while in August 2018 the KP police official website shows 80,000 total police strength of the province. This means significant increase took place during PTI tenure which makes the claim of Mr Akhtar Ali Shah disputable and rather vice versa as PTI came to power in 2013 not in 2015 as we have quoted the article of 2015 to verify the claim. From this, it transpires that around 45% increase in police strength in KP certainly took place during PTI government tenure.
Even if I agree with Mr Shah to the extent of accepting what ANP government, as he claims, did for bringing improvements in KP police strength but my protest on his not mentioning the long lists of measurable steps explicitly taken by the PTI government and through persistent and indefatigable efforts of former IGP (R) Nasir Khan Durrani and his team would not be unjustified. PTI government also deserves the credit for not undoing the little reforms that were introduced during ANP government’s tenure, as the PO 2002 was undone by the PPP government in Sindh and Balochistan by reverting back to Police Act 1861 in a single go. Instead, the PTI government in KP went on developing and building on ANP governments reformed institutions as mentioned by Mr Shah in the case of Counter Terrorism department-CTD.
It goes without saying that Police Order 2002 is a masterpiece and the first milestone in the history of Pakistan Police reform, yet it was introduced by a military dictator and as a result many politicians who were at odds with Musharaf failed to make sense of the new law and rejected it as it happened in Sindh Balochistan and also Punjab. However, PTI’s government in KP made significant improvements in PO 2002 and further built on its base and strategic policing model which is unprecedented in South Asia.
However, it saddens me to note that Mr Shah has turned a blind eye on PTI government bringing KP Police Act 2017, implementing it in letter and spirit and making KP police what Imran Khan calls really “misali” (Exemplary). The legislative measures include Police Act 2017, KP Restriction of Rental Building Act 2014, KP Hotel Restriction (Security) Act 2014, KP Vulnerable and Sensitive Establishment & Places Security Act 2014, and amendments in Punjab Police Rules 1934 as well as in KP Police Efficiency & Discipline Rules (amended in 1914) and much more that is not in my humble knowledge.
Besides significant legislative measures introduced in KP, The PTI government has gone extra miles in placing a new infrastructure of police for improving public service delivery. These new institutions and the law which created them were not there during the time of ANP government. The newly created institutions include: Police Assistant lines-PALs, Dispute Resolution Councils-DRCs, Police Access Service-PAS, Public liaisons Councils-PLCs, Model Reporting Rooms-MRRs, Empirical Performance Audit Mechanism-EPAM, Establishment of vertical communication networks through iCall system and thorough and holistic adoption of policing technology are few among many strategic initiatives taken during the tenure of PTI government. Among other so many measures the introduction of Canine Unit, Counter Terrorism Department, Rapid Response Force, Special Combat Unit, Women Elite Commando Unit, Cellular Forensic Cell, and traffic Warden Service are some of the strategic initiatives which have yielded positive results in achieving the strategic vision of building a peaceful and just society.
In addition to modernising police in the counter-terrorism field, KP Police stands ahead on other police departments in Pakistan in the adoption of technology. These technological initiatives include Centralized Crime Tracking and Analysis System (CCTAS), Criminal Record Verification System (CRVS), Identity Verification System (IVS) and Vehicle Verification System (VVS) and Tenant and Hotel Verification systems are part and parcel of generating big criminal database which helps in smarter policing which include easy access and quick response philosophy which this paper tries to advertise for expanding similar police reforms throughout Pakistan.
However, about the capacity building of the force PTI government did not stop with half-reformed Nowshera School but spread the network of specialised schools in the entire province which is unprecedented in the history of policing in the sub-continent. The schools include Police School of Investigation Peshawar, Police School of Intelligence Abbottabad, Police School of Tactics Peshawar, Police School of Explosive Handling at Nowshera, Police School of Public Disorder and Riot Management Mardan, Police School of Information Technology Peshawar, and up-gradations as well as expansions of different training schools in KP are remarkable and impactful steps in a rights direction. It is important to note that these all new schools were established in 2014-15 a period that falls in PTI government Tenure.
Above all these measures of building the law enforcement and counterterrorism capacity of KP police, what interests me the most is, indeed, the police governance model which is immune from bureaucratic and political cloning. Police stand depoliticised in a real sense. The governance model of police created through legislative and institutional mechanics deserves all popular and intellectual accolades. In this model of governance, the much sought after administrative and financial autonomy has been ensured for all ranks and especially by empowering PPO, RPO, DPO and SHO to carry out their legal duties without fear and favour. It is PPO who appoints RPOs, CCPOs and DPOs and it is Police Policy Board consultations, not the arbitrary will of PPO which prevails. It is the separate discussion that who uses his or her authority how but the system has been placed to ensure, transparency, democracy, legitimacy, objectivity and accountability.
The Prime Minister-elect, Mr Imran Khan, has an excellent example of KP police reforms to follow in other provinces so that the rusted system of policing, which has outlived its life may not make reappearance; so that the public may take a sigh of relief from red-tapism and authoritative ways of governance; and so that the coercive methods of policing may be made irrelevant by replacing them through introducing professional excellence for better public service delivery by the police. Police have always failed when it has been carried out in non-policing fashions of the military as well as bureaucracy. Police are and have been a public service, and it is from the public, for the people and of the people and should, therefore, be answerable to none except the public through an elaborate system of institutional and democratic accountability which is fair and appropriate. Such a democratic policing the people are dreaming of experiencing in the new Pakistan.
The writer is a blogger, novelist, essayist, author of many books, policing educator and the senior Police officer at Police Service of Pakistan. He tweets @Baloch_JJ