ISLAMABAD - Restoration of magistracy system and depoliticising police are critical for good governance, said experts and participants at a roundtable on ‘Police, Politics, and the People of Pakistan’ here on Thursday, as they discussed the pros and cons of Police Order 2002.

The experts stressed on the importance of upholding and implementing the Police Order 2002. It was proposed that the ministry of interior should establish the national public safety commission by notifying six MNAs nominated by the National Assembly speaker and also select six non-political members. The federal government should establish an independent federal police complaints authority as per Articles 97-102 of the PO 2002. It was further suggested that the police act of 1861 should be repealed in Islamabad capital territory and replaced by the Police Order 2002. Similarly, for the Islamabad district, public safety commission should be established under Chapter VII of PO 2002. There was an emphasis on the national police bureau to ensure that the national police management board, comprising all the heads of the federal and provincial law enforcement agencies, meet at least twice a year for making recommendations on professional police matters. Furthermore, it was recommended that Islamabad capital territory police should adopt a metropolitan policing model by raising the level of basic Police unit from a station to a division, headed by a superintendent for public convenience and efficient management of professional police functions under the same roof.

Dr Shoaib Suddle, former IG police, Tasneem Noorani former interior secretary, Rustam Shah Mohmand, former interior secretary, and Ahmed Bilal Mehboob, president PILDAT, spoke at the roundtable. Wazir Ahmed Khan Jogezai, former deputy speaker national assembly, chaired the roundtable.

Speaking on the occasion, Dr Shoaib Suddle said police needed to reinvent itself in order to enhance its performance. He said the system of police was to be changed right after independence as announced by Jinnah on August 17, 1947. However, the efforts to reform police have been scuttled since then. He said that the most important lessons to be leant from England and Wales was that police there was operationally independent of political influence. He believed that there was a need to form a national agenda on de-politicising police by all the political parties. Training and career progression of police should be linked with their performance. A ruthless and exemplary accountability system has to be in place to address the issue of corruption and abuse of authority in police, he viewed.

Tasneem Noorani said that there was a lack of implementation of the Police Order 2002. The main issue is the selection and appointment of the IG police of the provinces which should be based on merit and ensuring fixed tenure of office. He gave the example of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa where many police reforms had been put in practice as the IGP had been appointed on merit and had a full authority to work according to the law.

Rustam Shah Mohmand commended the PIDAT’s initiative of publishing the performance assessment of state institutions. He highlighted that the basic weakness in performance of police was institutional control. Citizens face everyday excesses by the authorities. This requires a more local level institutional framework. Under Gen Pervez Musharraf, the district magistracy was abolished which did not serve the purpose of required reforms. The law and order has further deteriorated due to this as there is no one to lead. In the absence of magistracy system, the locals find no captain at the district level which, he said, leads to chaos.

In his welcome remarks, Ahmed Bilal Mehboob said the aim and objectives of the roundtable were to understand the performance of police in Pakistan, identify gaps in its performance and offer cogent recommendations for reforms. He highlighted that the model of police in England and Wales had been illustrated in a paper commissioned by PILDAT from which Pakistan could draw lessons. He said apparently there was disconnect between the citizens and police. Since independence no substantial reforms have been introduced. However, the Police Order 2002 was an initiative that could have proved to introduce meaningful reforms but has not been implemented in letter and spirit.