Managing the muscle | Pakistan Today

Managing the muscle

  • Police reforms are preferable to playing politics on appointments


When the PTI formed a government in KP in 2013 it promised to reform the province’s police into an exemplary force, a model for the rest to follow. It had a go at it, trying to streamline the FIR registration process while making police stations more accessible, but these were merely cosmetic changes at best, hardly what had been promised. During that time the party was highly critical of the Punjab Police under then CM Shahbaz Sharif, painting it as an overly politicised behemoth of a force full of thugs rather than policemen that rarely functioned properly. Now, after being in power in Punjab for close to two years perhaps there is a realisation that police reforms are easier said than done. So far, five different Inspector Generals (IG) have been appointed in the province and there have been multiple in-custody suspect deaths. The appointment of the IG of any province is the prerogative of the Chief Minister and while there can be objections over the choice, it cannot be stopped. However, when such objections are given legal cover, as it happened in the case of former Sindh IG AD Khawja, who the PPP government of the time wanted to sack, the Supreme Court (SC) intervened and stopped it. Although they eventually prevailed, it still took some doing. A similar set of circumstances are now brewing in the province where the PPP government wants to replace the current IG Sindh Police while the PTI, which is the second largest party in the Sindh Assembly, is threatening legal action. Instead of opening new battlefronts perhaps it would be better that the debate is directed towards reforming the police rather than depoliticising it.

The police, by virtue of having to report to elected representatives of the people is bound to be politicised. The same setup is responsible for its oversight as well. Police officers have to follow orders, as long as they are legal orders. And this is where the change in culture is required, where better training and fear of dismissal and/or legal action discourage illegal practices that are prevalent across the country. That it is inefficient and untrustworthy is not a public perception, it’s a reality. To change this is, an overhauling of a stubborn system is required that will take years. Only an honest, long-term all-out effort will get the job done. There are no quick fixes here.