Pakistan – Still suffering from a colonial-era policing system

Photo: AP

Advance and friendly police system is very important for any country. In developed countries police force always works as public servants in society. That is the main reason that in those countries public considers cops very important and respectable members of the society. Good relationship between police authorities and citizens at community level and use of modern technology and surveillance system have also very important role in maintaining safety and peace in the cities. In developed countries, police control crimes with the use of modern technology and if anything happens, police make full use of the modern tools and technology in investigation and catch the suspect through them with fair bit of ease.

Strong interaction, coordination and networking between police and other relevant law enforcement agencies, is actually the backbone for any peaceful society. Developed countries all over the world have realised the importance and efficient role of police to maintain peace and crime free society. These countries have developed their police systems according to the demands and requirements of their particular societies.

Unfortunately, in Pakistan, we are still living with the old police system which was designed and implemented by the British Empire under Police Act of 1861. This system was designed simply to control mobs and ensure that nobody can create any problem for government in the subcontinent. The purpose to implement Police Act 1861 was to introduce police as a cruel and frightening force so that nobody among the locals could raise their voice against the British Empire in subcontinent.

Same concept is still underlying the police system under successive governments in Pakistan. This force is still being used as a weapon to rule on majority of the people. This force is being used as personal guards. The gap between the society and the police is worsening. At provincial levels, this force is also being used for different purposes. That is why there are lots of disparities in police systems in provinces and the federal capital.

Various governments tried to change and implement reforms but failed due to political instability in the country. For the implementation of reforms in any sector, including police, we have to ensure a peaceful and stable democratic system.

All over the world, local government and policing are two important pillars and institutions for peace and prosperity of public. However, in Pakistan our police force is highly politicised and is being used for serving personal interests.

The implementation of different police orders in different parts of Pakistan in fact has generated disparities among the police force. Although, at provincial level, provinces have amended the police act yet the basic police system is still based on Police Act of 1861.

Reforming police on modern methods and technologies is one of the huge challenges in the country. We really need to standardise police system in all provinces and at federal level as well.

Public friendly policing service in Pakistan is not possible with the presence of a 150-year old police act

Police Order 2002, which was promulgated on 14 August 2002, replaced the Police Act 1861 in all four provinces of Pakistan but it was not extended to the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT), Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) or Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK). Based on the Police Order 2002, Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa introduced their own police orders. Sindh initially adopted the same but later on, in 2011, Sindh reverted back to the Police Act 1861, where, ICT and FATA also have the Police Act 1861 in place with some minor changes.

Our police service is now in the state of fragmentation, standing exposed in the recent Faizabad sit-ins. A lack of coordination and collaboration between ICT police and Punjab police was observed. Unless we move towards a uniformed police law, we may not get out of this quagmire.

Weak prosecution and poor investigation by the police are responsible for this sorry state of affairs. Police should also play a proactive role in the current circumstances.

The police reforms cannot be effectively implemented unless we do not reform our crimes investigation system. The lack of political will, lack of resources, lack of monetary support, external interferences and resistance from bureaucracy are the major hurdles in effectively implementing Police Order 2002.

Our police have become a public frightening service. They should rather be a public friendly service. As current police system is based on old Police Act of 1861, we have yet to change the one and a half centuries old police system. This system is not compatible to the modern day needs. Public friendly policing service in Pakistan is not possible with the presence of a 150-year old police act.  No doubt, police order 2002 is an excellent document which ensures that the police force will be a role model for the society.

Along with the implantation of uniformed police system at all provinces and at federal level, interaction and coordination between police and citizens is the need of the hour at community level.

To discuss all this, Sustainable Development Policy Institute arranged special seminar on the topic and invited all stakeholders to discuss reasons of disparities in police systems in provinces and the federal capital, which was very much appreciated by all stakeholders.