POLICE ORDER 2002

Unanimous decision taken at the meeting will remove all obstacles in the way of full implementation of Police Order 2002

From SHAMIM AHMED RIZVI,
 Islamabad

Apr 26 - May 09, 2004

After a long wait, a high level meeting presided over President Gen. Pervez Musharraf and attended by the Prime Minister, Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali and the four Provincial Ministers and high officials in Islamabad last week decided to implement the Police Order 2002 by the end of 2004. Lot of changes have, however, been made in the original draft to accommodate the demands of the political set up of the Provincial Government.

After the meeting, the President announced that the unanimous decision taken at the meeting will remove all obstacles in the way of full implementation of Police Order 2002.

The decision to repeal the Police Act 1881 and replace it with Police Order 2002 was taken by the National Reconstruction Bureau (NRB) as a part of its devolution programme and system of district government. The NRB has desired to reform the police in the direction of as professional, politically neutral, democratically controlled and a people friendly force, a description that runs contrary to common perception of the police force in this country.

If the performance of the police on the law and order front and combating terrorism is taken into account, the charge of being unprofessional, even being incompetent, finds sufficient evidence to made it stick. The penchant of every government in our independent history, whether civilian or military, to use the police (and even the judiciary) to target its political opponents has been one of the unfortunate aspects of law enforcement. As to the democratic control and being people friendly, the less said the better. It was precisely on these areas that the NRB proposals, which eventually found expression in the shape of the Police Order 2002, focused.

However, in the environment obtaining of before the October 2002 general election, the NRB engaged with only one rung of the political ladder, since neither provincial nor national assemblies existed. That rung was the local bodies system framed by none other than the NRB itself. The potential, and after October 2002 actual, stakeholders in the political system at the provincial and federal level were neither in the NRB loop, nor, as it later transpired, particularly enthusiastic about the NRB's idea of a police force free of executive control. It may be recalled that in the past, before its abolition, the executive magistracy was one of the preferred tolls of every incumbent government to control and use the police for politically partisan purposes. The Police Order 2002 had left the provincial and federal politics out of the control structure of the police. This was the main base of the reservations expressed over the last two years by all the provincial governments about the Order.

The Islamabad meeting, held to review the reform process, has conceded political and executive control over the police in response to the provinces objections and failure to take measures according to the 2002 Order.

The new approach will take the shape of the following changes to the Police Order: The reform process will be conducted in three phases. From April-May, i.e. before the budget, legal matters will be resolved and financial assessments to get allocations from the federal budget finalized. The latter had remained one of the major bottlenecks to date to the implementation of the reforms. June-July will see training for members of the Public Safety and Complaints Commission and police on the interim rules for business of the new set-up. In August-September, the rules of business will be finalized and taught to all stakeholders. At the district level, the police will be brought under the thumb of the Nazims, who will write the Annual Confidential Reports of district police officials. MNAs and MPAs from the district will be members of the respective district public safety commission (PSC), intended as a check on the police. The changed commission of these district PSCs will be one MNA and two MPAs, three members of the district council, and three independent members selected by a panel headed by a district and session judge. The provincial Public Safety Commission and Police Safety Commission and Police Complaints Authority proposed by the NRB will be merged into a provincial Public Safety and Complaints Commission, with double the number of treasury members as against the opposition, to be appointed by the Chief Minister/Provincial government. The Chief Justices have been excluded from the selection panel for independent members of the provincial Safety Commissions.

This panel will now consist of the Provincial Ombudsman and the chairperson of the provincial PSC. An Implementation Committee to be headed by the NRB Chairman has been set-up to ensure the deadline for completion of the reorganization by December 2004.

In essence the concession to the demands of provincial and local political forces to be given control of the police are likely to exacerbate the politicization of the police. Postings and transfers of high police officers, an area always of interest to the politicians, has been placed under the chief ministers as the final authority. President General Pervez Musharraf, whose approval for these changes was a constitutional necessity since the Police Order is included in the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution, has expediently bowed to vested interests amongst the politicians to virtually cut the ground from under the thrust of the Police Order to bring about a professional and non-partisan police force.

A lot of experimentation has been done with Police system over the decades, but there has been no success in putting in place an efficient, service-oriented and public friendly police force in the country over the past half a century. The police has unfortunately turned out to the crime prone, corrupt, inefficient and dreadful force with the passage of time. It has been politicized to the core due to excessive interference by political governments, executive and parliamentarians over the period of time. No other State institution is so hated today by the people, as is police. The basic cause of corruption, inefficiency and waywardness of police is due to its politicization. This is an unimpeachable truth that has been accepted by successive governments in the past. Even the military regime of President Musharraf too had whipped up the concept of police's politicization prior to the formulation of the Police Order 2002. Yet it's ironic that the Police Order has failed to address this malady of politicization.