LAHORE - At least 23,000 newly-stitched uniforms have been given to police officers in Lahore and some 7000 cops are waiting for the new dress. In a phased programme, the provincial government is going to replace the age-old black police uniform with olive green.

In Lahore, the city police department is yet to launch the new dress code officially. The 180,000-strong Punjab police within months will be in new uniform. Since the provincial police department has decided to introduce new dress for the police force, the officers and Jawans will have to accept the change, no matter willingly or unwillingly.

Last week, the department notified the new dress after months-long deliberations. Most of the top police officers have unanimously approved the new dress for the country’s largest law enforcement agency. However, some policemen were seen whispering against the new policy. They were of the view that the new uniform will eliminate the “terror of the police force” on ground. Even, a few characters said that the decision of the new police uniform should be challenged in the court of law.

The police department, several years ago, had dropped the same idea after facing strong resistances from within the force against the new uniform. The idea of new police uniform had also triggered a tough debate within the department and in the national media as well. The proposal to change police uniform had been submitted to the government in 2012 after police officials complained that they face difficulties in discharging their duties due to black shirts during the summer. Later, the idea was dropped following sever criticism within the police force.

But last year, the police department launched a fresh move to change the colour of the police uniform after doing complete homework. Several meetings were held and samples were shortlisted. Ultimately, most of the officers recommended olive-green colour, being graceful and weather-friendly, for the new police uniform. Police officers say the approval regarding the new uniform was given after getting feedback from the field commanders. Several professionals helped police finalize the new pattern keeping in mind high-quality stitching, features, design, and comfort.

Hamayun Bashir Tarrar, who leads the Logistic department of the Punjab police, said that experts at the national textile university were also consulted to ensure suitable suiting for the policemen. “Our constables will be more comfortable in new uniform. It was designed on the pattern of Pakistan Army.” The officer said that the new pattern was approved after several quality tests regarding moisture management. “The new dress was designed by top engineers. Surely, the new dress will facilitate police in operational duties.”

Police officer Hamayun Bashir further said that the new dress featured a light-weight cap, two-pocket shirts, and four-pocket trouser. It has resemblance with the uniform of military soldiers. “The new uniform will give a new look to police. When our officers will wear comfortable dress, they will perform operation duties more professionally and politely,” the officer claimed. A badge of the national flag has been affixed with Velcro. The police arm badge of the approved pattern also carries 2cm blow the flag. Unlike the previous uniform, the new shirts can be opened from the front with concealed buttons.

Last week the department notified the new pattern for the police uniform stating that the distribution of the new uniform would be completed by the end of March in Lahore. In the next phase, the new uniform will be distributed in Rawalpindi, Faisalabad, Multan, Sheikhupura, Gujranwala, Sargodha, Bahawalpur, Sahiwal, and Dera Ghazi Khan Police regions.

Lahore capital city police officer Muhammad Amin Wains says his department had unanimously decided to get rid of the decades-old black uniform. “If someone says the uniform will eliminate the terror of the police force on ground, he says right. We don’t need to terrorise our own people. We are moving towards community policing, digital policing, and public-friendly policing.”

The Lahore police chief further said that the new police order was part of the latest initiatives being introduced in the province to reform the police force. “Without the active support of the people, we can’t fight criminals and terrorists effectively. Police and public are two faces of the same coin.”

Additional-IG Muhammad Amin Wains introduced many people-friendly changes in police since he took over as the Lahore police chief. The appointment of admin officers at police stations, creation of well-trained and fully-equipped patrolling units, and establishment of digital control rooms in Lahore are a few examples in recent years.

The Punjab government also pumped billions of rupees into the police pocket in recent years to strengthen the civil law enforcement agency. Many special wings including police response units, Dolphin squads, and homicide cells were created in the department to improve the working of the police force.

Punjab inspector general of police Mushtaq Ahmed Sukhera is going to retire early next month as the provincial police force is going to wear a new look. The police hierarchy believes that the initiatives and policies introduced by IGP Sukhera will definitely bring a positive change as far the typical policing or Thana culture is concerned.

Mr Wains is leading the race for the top slot in the Punjab police. The name of Additional-IG Amin Wains is under serious consideration for the next Punjab IGP. Police circles say, Mr Wains will not only continue implementation on the policies introduced by the out-going IGP but he will also leave no stone unturned to change the Thana culture.

Punjab chief minister Shehbaz Sharif, during the last two decades, took multiple initiatives to reform the age-old policing in the most populated province. Also, the CM hired the services of Turkish experts to improve the operational capabilities of the police force. On the directions of the chief minister, military instructors provided specialised training to the policemen in different fields. The cops were also given pay raise and special incentives.

The government has been struggling to overhaul the traditional policing and the latest efforts are a case in point. The next year is said to be the year of general elections. One hopes that the ruling party would fulfill its promise of police reforms before the new elections since this point was the main part their election manifesto in 2013.