Mr Azhar Hasan Nadeem, who has long experience of service in Punjab as a teacher, magistrate and policeman has touched sensitive issues of police control and operational independence in his letter published in a section of print media.
There is no doubt that general public, politicians, bureaucracy and judiciary are not happy with the performance of our Police. There are many reasons for this state of affairs; historical, political, social, organizational, etc. Many critics blame the departmental hierarchy for police ineffectiveness in controlling crime, while others put the blame on politicians who abuse the Police for their own political and personal ends. This blame game leads one nowhere.
After independence many commissions and committees were appointed by well-meaning governments for police reforms. The last serious initiative was taken by General Pervez Musharraf who tasked Lt General Naqvi, Chairman National Reconstruction Bureau (NRB), to draft a new Police Law. General Naqvi, with intellectual input from selected senior police officers, prepared the Police Order 2002 to give an accountable and operationally independent police to the country. This law was not accepted by the powerful provincial bureaucracy, who wanted to keep the police under their thumb, mostly for ceremonial purposes.
In the service there were also some officers who did not accept the law wholeheartedly because they were trained and groomed to work with magistracy in dealing with public disorder situations. On top of it, amendments introduced by the government of General Musharraf under pressure from interested quarters made the Police Order toothless in the domain of accountability.
Though the Police Order 2002 led to expansion and promotions in the department, it did not produce desired results for the general public. Now Punjab bureaucracy wants to bring in a new Police Order. Other provinces will follow Punjab.
According to Dr A H Nadeem, the proposed law will bring the police under complete bureaucratic control and the public will be again left high and dry. For the provincial bureaucracy, controlling police is more important than crime control and peace.
Today the police is facing unique challenges: the present policing system is not geared to cope with terrorism and extremism. As a matter of fact, the administrative system has become irrelevant being obsolete, corrupt and inefficient. Under these circumstances the need for police reforms cannot be over-emphasised. However, these reforms should emerge through debates, discussions and research at public forums, think -tanks, media and assemblies. All stakeholders, including the judiciary, should be taken on board in the police reform process. The nation deserves and needs an efficient, effective, accountable and operationally independent police.