For a variety of reasons, no other state institution needed reforms and reorganisation so desperately as police


Aug 19 - 25, 2002


The police reform ordinance which was approved by the federal cabinet last week was formally promulgated on the auspicious day of Aug. 14 by President General Pervez Musharraf. The ordinance which replaces the police act of 1861 extends to whole of Pakistan and comes into force with immediate effect.

The Order seeks that whereas it is expedient to redefine the police role, its duties and responsibilities, and whereas, it is necessary to reconstruct the police for efficient prevention and detection of crime, and maintenance of public order; and that the Chief Executive is satisfied that circumstances exist which render it necessary "to take immediate action".

The Chapter II of the Order deals with responsibilities and duties of the police, Chapter-III with constitution and organisation of the police, Chapter-IV with responsibilities of the head of district police, Chapter-V with district public safety commission, Chapter-VI with capital city district public safety commission, Chapter-VII with Islamabad district public safety commission, Chapter-VIII with provincial public safety commission, Chapter-IX with the national public safety commission, Chapter-X with police complaints authorities, Chapter-XI with criminal justice coordination committee, Chapter-XII with regulation, control and discipline of the police, Chapter-XIII with powers to issue orders, Chapter-XIV with special measures for maintenance of public order and security, Chapter-XV with responsibilities of police in relation to unclaimed property, Chapter-XVI with offence by and punishment for police officers, and Chapter-XVII with national police management board, etc.

In the Order, the envisaged branches, divisions, bureau's and sections referred to include those of investigation, intelligence, watch and ward, reserve police, police accountability, personnel management, education and training, finance and internal audit, crime prevention, crime against women, traffic planning and management, criminal identification, information technology, transport, research and development, legal affairs, welfare and estate management.

The order is to replace the antiquated Police Act of 1861, which the British colonialists had put in place to rule, not to serve the natives. Unfortunate as it is, the Act has remained more or less unaltered for so long, despite public calls for change, because it also served the interests of the rulers in independent Pakistan. In particular, it suited the feudal class to use the police as an instrument to perpetuate its social as well as political influence. It helped them if the police had an image that instilled terror rather than trust in the public mind. Hence the police continued to be trained to act as a particularly repressive organisation in the service of the rich and powerful of the land. In terms of general law and order, things have greatly worsened during the last one decade or so, with a variety of criminal elements having acquired vastly superior weapons as also sophistication in their methods of operation.

For a variety of reasons, no other state institution needed reforms and reorganisation so desperately as police. Firstly, the Police still regulated and governed by the 19th century law, enacted by the colonial rulers to suit their own colonial needs of subjugation and repression. Secondly, corruption has so deeply crept into its vitals that it is simply futile to expect it to perform as a state institution of an independent and sovereign nation. And thirdly, the political inductions, made during the PML and PPP governments have cut across its very basis and ruined the element of efficiency, decency and objectivity of the force. There are reports that thousands of anti-social elements were able to join the police by dint of corruption and political manipulation, one has to fully endorse General Musharraf stance that reformation and reorganisation of police is fundamental to good governance. It is an indisputable reality that security of life, honour and property cannot be ensured without honest, efficient and responsive police force. The previous rulers and their cronies had unfortunately used Police as an instrument of political influence and thus destroyed its basic characteristic of service to the people. It's really time to change the orientation of the Police force and practically attune its objectives and motto to serve the masses, rather than playing into the hands of political elements to promote their selfish designs. The thana culture must come to an end and police stations should turn into hubs of peace and justice, rather than torture and extortion.

Regarding the question of improving efficiency, the plan to split the police department's structure into three wings, watch and ward, investigation, and prosecution, is a step in the right direction. So is a substantial improvement in financial allocations. Rs.10 billion has been earmarked for police reforms. This money is to be spent within a span of three to five years to provide better training to the police personnel as well as for the procurement of modern equipment and development of infrastructure.