The Punjab police have stood firmly against reforms, which they claimed would limit the independence of their institution; now it seems that they and the government have reached a compromise on the way forward.

The draft Police Act 2017 prepared by the home department earlier this month was strongly opposed by the police formally and legally, as it vested the powers of control and oversight of police into the hands of the Punjab Chief Minister, thus effectively reducing the independence of the police to make its own decisions and making them subject to the whims of politicians. At that time, it seemed that the police had no remedy to turn to except the courts, as the Punjab assembly dominated by Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) politicians, is unlikely to curb the bill.

However, it seems that the Police do not have to worry about their decision-making power being curtailed as Rana Sanaullah Khan has announced that the previous bill has been scrapped and the home department is eager to include the police in the process to draft a new bill and accommodate their suggestions.

Reports of the meetings between the Police and the Home Department officials show that the police are heavily favouring Musharraf-era police reforms and are adamant that the draft bill should contain the nomenclature of all posts which are provided in the Police Order 2002. The biggest victory perhaps is the retaining of the position of the Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) under the provincial Inspector General (IG), which ensures a more provincial structure of power instead of a metropolitan one.

The dependence of the police on politicians has often been the harshest criticism of the police institution and one reason why they are looked upon suspiciously rather than as a dependable force. Involving the police in the drafting of this bill is a good move for the police to prove its capability as an independent institution.

This reform bill should be bundled with other step to improve the efficiency of the force. Helpful steps are already being taken by the police with its new scheme to replace the century-old manual paper work at their offices with digitization. There were severe risks of leakage of official record and the security-related information. Manual paper work had hindered the performance of the police department, besides resulting in wastage of money and time. It also led to the age-old excuse of “files being lost” when court would demand important evidence. The paperless environment has brought a considerable improvement in respect of security risk, utilization of human resource and workload.

These are positive initiatives that are necessary for the modernisation of an ageing department.