What Advocate General Punjab told the Supreme Court on Wednesday constitutes an indictment of the provincial government. Punjab police, he said, was not in control of anyone and had established their own state within a state. So far one had read reports about financial mismanagement forcing the provincial government to take recourse to substantial bank loans and call off the cheap bread scheme after spending billions of rupee on the unsustainable project. One had also come across comments regarding the style of governance characterized by micro-management and self projection rather than team work. Thus, crucial ministries, like education and commerce, remained without ministers for long while others were run on CMs behalf by dozens of task forces. Shahbazs critics maintained that the governments performance during the floods would have been better if, instead of hopping from place to place in the company of teams of media reporters and photographers, the CM had managed the situation from a central office in the provincial capital. We are told now that the police remain outside his control. This raises questions about the quality of governance in the province.
Police reforms were avowedly high on the agenda of Mian Shahbaz during his last tenure. He had promised to bring to an end the notorious thana culture that prevailed in the province. What happened instead was that corruption continued to remain the hallmark at police stations while fake encounters reached an unprecedented level. What one sees happening in Punjab today gives one a sense of dj vu. Corruption remains well trenched at police stations despite a hefty pay raise ordered by Shahbaz Sharif. Meanwhile, the police force led by blue eyed boys has again become a law unto itself. Several reports, appearing in the media during the PML(N)s present tenure highlighting torture at police stations and public display of the dead bodies of alleged criminals, indicate that the discipline has almost vanished in the police ranks.
Police must not be rewarded for illegal acts by responsible ministers as happened in Gujranwala last year. Instead, any police officer indulging in illegality has to be awarded exemplary punishment in accordance with the law. Unless this is done, thana culture and other police excesses will continue to flourish bringing bad name to the government.