–Officials say resentment growing among police officers over govt’s bid to ‘curtail powers’
–Law Minister Raja Basharat says reforms aim at accountability, won’t be introduced without consensus
LAHORE: Compared to senior police officials of the province, top police officers of Lahore are particularly anxious after the government’s move to reform the Punjab Police and will huddle once again on Monday at the Capital City Police Office to chalk out a strategy to foil the bid.
A police officer, on the condition of anonymity, told Pakistan Today that the police high-ups expressed “serious concerns” over the new move.
“Frustration and fear are at peak among the senior police officials who are serving in Lahore, and we have planned to meet on Monday to discuss this issue,” said a DIG who is privy to the details.
“We’ll go to the maximum extent to foil this new move initiated to curtail powers of police officials. And this move will never work,” he said while seriously opposing the new reforms.
According to informed sources, the Punjab government has planned to establish a complaint authority as well as a regulatory commission to address the complaints concerning police misconduct and to maintain internal and external accountability of the department.
The move came after Prime Minister Imran Khan gave a go-ahead to new police reforms. He formed a committee headed by the interior secretary and allowed authorities in Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the federal capital to implement the new plan in letter and spirit.
Under the new reforms, a high-level provincial search committee is also on the cards which will exercise “maximum powers in managing and looking after the police affairs”.
“The high-level search committee will be consisting of a director general and five directors,” the sources said, adding that “a director may be a retired police officer, prosecutor, a civil servant and a lawyer with maximum experience while a layman may also be the member of that committee under the new draft”.
An inspectorate will be established rather than the Public Safety Commission for internal and external accountability of the police department, the sources added.
‘DEADLOCK MAY PERSIST’:
The reforms might see a prolonged deadlock between the Punjab Police and the provincial government, said sources.
“The government and bureaucrats are barely interested in reforming the service, as it only wants to keep the police officials under its thumb,” an SSP told Pakistan Today on the condition of anonymity.
He vowed to resist the move, saying: “We’ll not let it happen even if we will have to quit our job.”
Commenting on the meeting, he said that this would be a “practical step to thwart mala fide intentions of the bureaucrats.”
“The senior police officials for now will organise and if the move is not stopped, then the scope would be broadened to the rest of Punjab and to the federal level,” he confirmed.
However, the police officially denied that there was any sort of resentment among its ranks over the proposed reforms.
DIG (Inspection & Discipline) Ahsan Younas said he was not aware of the reported meeting at the CCPO, declining to delve into the matter further. Punjab Police chief’s Spokesperson Nayab Haider, despite repeated attempts, didn’t respond to the queries put forth by the scribe.
Talking to Pakistan Today Punjab, Law Minister Raja Basharat said that there was a “misconception that the provincial government was going to curtail the powers of the police officials”.
He said the government, on directions of the PM, was simply establishing a regulatory body for “internal and external accountability of the police department”.
“We are not going to give the deputy commissioners control of the police department,” he said, clarifying that the reform didn’t mean to curtail police’s power.
He said the government will not go ahead with the proposed reforms unless all the parties are on board.
“I held at least five meetings with the IGP and other senior police officials but so far of no avail,” he said, adding that the government is going to satisfy the police officers and a consensus will be developed soon.
“We have overcome many misconceptions about police officials’ powers, held a number of meetings to deliberate on this issue and we’ll implement this new plan after seeking complete consensus of the police officials.”