April Issue 2003

By | News & Politics | Published 18 years ago

At 11:30 pm on March 22, the doorbell rang at Citizens-Police Liaison Committee chief Jameel Yusuf’s Hill Park residence. At the gate was a courier bearing an official document. Its contents, a notification from the Sindh Home Department informing Yusuf that his services as CPLC chief had been terminated with immediate effect.

Shocking though the news was, in Yusuf’s line of work, insecurity of tenure was just one of the many hazards that were par for the course. In his 13-year stint as chief of the organisation several attempts had been made to dislodge Yusuf. Quite simply, he had trod on too many toes.

An apolitical, independent body, the CPLC under Yusuf had acquired a much larger role than originally envisaged. It had grown into Pakistan’s arguably premier — and unarguably most high-tech — crime-combating unit. In the process, Yusuf had often ventured — many times beyond the call of duty, and sometimes at the risk of his life — into situations that impinged on the interests of assorted power groups. Thus, alongside the lengthy list of grateful beneficiaries of his work and friends who unstintingly supported his endeavours, was an equally long list of of enemies: politicians, feudals, industrialists, crime dons, bureaucrats, and members of the law-enforcing agencies, including the armed forces — in short, a microcosm of the country’s movers and shakers.

And so they moved and manipulated, and finally, after an unsuccessful attempt to dislodge him in November 2002, managed this time around to oust Yusuf, without even a warning.

Ironically, after Yusuf overcame the efforts to remove him last time, he had sought a vote of confidence from all the chiefs and deputy chiefs of the organisation. All but two of the 14 supported him through a secret ballot.

A statutory body, the CPLC was the product of an idea conceived by the then governor of Sindh, Fakhruddin Ebrahim, to bridge the gap between the citizens and police and to restore the former’s increasingly eroding faith in the institution of the police.

What began as committees in four city police stations, evolved through an amendment in the police rules in 1989 into the Citizens-Police Liaison Committee, with a Central Reporting Cell (CRC) located in the governor’s house, and others in all the districts of Karachi. Industrialists Jameel Yusuf and Nazim Haji were appointed as co-chiefs of this organisation — honorary positions since neither drew any salary. While Haji resigned in 1996, Yusuf continued as sole chief of the CPLC until his services were terminated. With the passage of time, and the active support of successive governors of the province, the CPLC grew in strength and stature. Although its official description as a liaising outfit has not changed, it has became one of the most crucial elements of policing in Sindh today.

Among its many functions are information collection and analysis, direct participation in police operations, assistance to citizens, and keeping tabs on police functioning. Not only does the CPLC currently boast one of South Asia’s most sophisticated crime-detection cells, equipped with state of the art facilities, it also has a comprehensive — and the country’s sole — crime and criminal database for Karachi, dating back 14 years. It is now being proposed that this software be used across the country. And on Yusuf’s agenda for the CPLC, as he was handed his walking papers, was a virtual private network, linking all areas of the country through the internet.

In addition to crime combating, the CPLC under Yusuf also involved itself in other fields. Policies conceived and advocated (now in various stages of implementation) by the CPLC include police reforms, the alien registration authority project, an arms control policy and a national vehicle authority project. Also in operation or on the anvil are assorted police-citizen related welfare projects: a public toilet scheme, an emergency ambulance service with paramedics for victims of traffic accidents, a neighbourhood watch, a shelter for women, and a self-employment scheme for the handicapped.

Although the statistics for CPLC’s success rate in various areas — from apprehending rapists to busting auto theft gangs and recovering vehicles — are impressive, just how effective the organisation has been can be gauged from its graph in a single area: cases of kidnapping for ransom. In the period January 1990 to February 2003, the CPLC undertook, in conjunction with the police, 283 cases of ransom kidnappings. Of these 226 — or 79.86 per cent — were solved, and 57, or 20.14 per cent remain unresolved. In the process, 100 gangs involved in the racket were apprehended, with the natural corollary being a significant drop in crimes of this nature.

Given the growing scope of the organisation’s activities, it is interesting to note that it only receives about 15 per cent of its funding from the government, essentially for administrative expenses. The remainder is garnered from agencies such as the UNDP, to multinationals and local corporations to private citizens.

Jameel Yusuf acknowledges the generous and ongoing support in both çash and capital goods from business houses, multinationals and individuals, such as IBM, Cybernet, TCS, PSO, Adamjee Insurance, EFU, ALCOP, Dadabhoy Cement, ABAD, Karam Ceramics, Shabbir Tiles, PTCL, Insta, Paktel, Mobilink and Ufone to name a few, and donors like Yasin Malik of Yasin Pharma and Mr. Hannan who have offered to underwrite entirely the cost of 100 public toilets each, at a sum of 20 million rupees.

The CPLC’s successful income generation did not owe to any aggressive fund-raising campaigns by the organisation. It owed quite simply to the confidence vested by corporations and citizens alike in the CPLC — and in the man who ran it. Says one industrialist who has made sizeable contributions to the organisation, “I’d given Jameel Yusuf a blank cheque — I trust him both personally, and because he understands the mechanics of the job which is becoming an increasingly sophisticated operation. His removal is a big blow. Now I’m going to have to seriously reconsider my company’s association with the CPLC.”

Another aid-giving agency is also reportedly reconsidering its financial commitments to the CPLC in the light of its chief’s unceremonious ouster. And scores of industrialists for whom the trust they reposed in Yusuf was the basis of their unstinting generosity to the CPLC, may also be less inclined to contribute to an organisation that one described as “rudderless” in Yusuf’s absence.

Lack of faith and funding could prove disastrous for the organisation, particularly since it was developing into an institution the people of Sindh had learnt to trust and gaining considerable international repute.

The CPLC was selected as one of the 16 organisations profiled in an Asian Development Bank report on successful models of indigenous philanthropy. In fact, the ADB report for the year 2001 stated that it had made the establishment of CPLC units across the country one of the conditionalities of its 350 million USD “access of justice loan” to the government of Pakistan.

Other international acknowledgement of the CPLC’s exemplary role came by way of a working paper on the organisation published by the Institute of Development Studies (IDS), University of Sussex in 2002. The paper was read in a seminar hosted by the IDS in connection with the next World Development Report to be published by the World Bank.

It is not surprising then that efforts to replicate the CPLC example are underway in different provinces of the country, beginning with the Punjab, and internationally, in countries like Canada, Sri Lanka and India.

But perhaps the CPLC’s major achievement has been in the manner in which it has fulfilled the very role it was created for: addressing the needs of Karachi’s beleaguered citizens. And in this area, Jameel Yusuf features prominently.

When attempts were underfoot to dislodge Yusuf in November 2002, Mohammad Saeed, the father of five children who had been kidnapped and were recovered nine days later through the efforts of the CPLC, wrote a letter to the Dawn stating, “Our life was shattered… within hours, Jameel Yusuf was in our house, gave us hope and guided us to overcome that… crisis…”

“After the children had been recovered he asked me to leave while he himself waited for the back-up scheduled to come… the force did not turn up and he alone engaged the kidnappers in an encounter, injuring one and apprehending the others.”

Hashim Samdani recounts how his brother Anis Samdani was rescued after being held hostage for 46 traumatic days. “Jameel Yusuf and his team were with us night and day, counselling us, comforting us, We were walking blind, but for them.

“We called CPLC the day Anis was kidnapped. It was amazing how much data they had and how Jameel Yusuf preempted every move the kidnappers made. When we discovered Anis’ and his captors’ whereabouts, it was Jameel who personally went to Hub to deal with them and eventually got Anis back. No ransom was paid, but the family had, in desperation, earlier forked out two million rupees to a man sent to us by a politician, who had promised to get Anis back. We hadn’t told Jameel this until the end. He even recovered this money for us — half of which we donated to the CPLC in gratitude.”

Habib Dhanji talks of how the CPLC helped recover his two-year-old grandson Zemar who had been kidnapped, within 24 hours. No ransom was paid. Says Dhanji, “I give Jameel Yusuf full credit for what he did for my family.”

PPL Chairman Munsif Raza relates how his 12-day kidnapping ordeal was resolved by the CPLC. “My family had contacted assorted people — from the corps commander to the police and rangers — but it was only the CPLC, essentially Jameel Yusuf, that really came through. Without Jameel I don’t think I would ever have been freed — and certainly not without paying ransom.”

The news of Jameel Yusuf’s forced exit from the CPLC has, not surprisingly thus, elicited outrage among a cross section of people.

Certainly, there have been mutterings about how it was time for Yusuf to have stepped down after 14 years and make way for young blood. Said the MQM’s Kunwar Khalid Yunus, “I know Jameel Yusuf is very hard-working, but in a democratic system it’s better to have change in an organisation, or it can become stagnant.”

While this is a perception that has been expressed in some quarters, the question remains, is anyone else either qualified enough, or willing to take on the mantle, which apart from being entirely voluntary, requires not only specialised knowledge of the state-of-the-art crime-detection systems the CPLC has managed to induct, and psychological counselling of victims’ families, but more, the willingness to risk life and limb, as Yusuf has done on numerous occasions, to get the job done?

Says Hashim Samdani, “Jameel Yusuf was doing a job so specialised, it’s unimaginable. I sincerely believe no one can fill his shoes. And while his second-in-command, Sharfuddin Memon is a decent man, he doesn’t even measure up to 25 per cent of Jameel Yusuf, who’s a rock — intelligent, committed and totally fearless.”

Habib Dhanji echoes Samdani’s contention. “Jameel Yusuf’s removal is a national loss.”

Educationist Sami Mustafa writes, “Without him [Yusuf], Karachi would have been a city unbearable and totally unsafe for us and for our children to live in.”

Munsif Raza speaks of “shock and disappointment to hear of Yusuf’s removal and asks,” who else would be willing to give up his own livelihood to serve the citizens of this city? He’s a selfless pioneer. I’m disgusted — to put it mildly.”

In a letter to Dawn H.M. Shahzad, chairman of the All Karachi Motors Dealers Association wrote, on behalf of his organisation, “we extend our full support to Mr. Jameel Yusuf and urge others to do the same… A dynamic person, fair in his professional duties and never having lacked in responding to any problems [he] has already gone down in history as a son of the soil. Why uproot him?”

And Helpline’s Hamid Maker expresses his indignation, saying he is considering filing a petition in court against Yusuf’s removal. He says it’s unfortunate that a person who has given 14 years of his life to the city should be removed in this manner. “Who can replace him? And why hasn’t there been a reaction? Are we going to honour him after he dies?” asks Maker.

In fact, Yusuf has been repeatedly honoured. In 1992 he was awarded the Sitara-i-Shujaat for gallantry by the President of Pakistan. One of the chief proposers of this award was then governor Sindh, Mahmoud A. Haroon, who stated in his recommendatory letter to the awarding authorities that “In his personal capacity Mr. Jameel Yusuf has been the driving force behind the organisation [the CPLC]… due to his dynamic and concerted efforts [the cell] has performed excellently… Jameel Yusuf has provided an extraordinary service.”

Then Corps Commander, Karachi Lt. General Arif Bangash lauded Yusuf for “the noble efforts undertaken by the CPLC.” Another corps commander, Lt. General Nasir Akhtar echoed general Bangash’s sentiments by writing of Yusuf’s “gallant and valuable services.” And President Musharraf stated, after a briefing on the CPLC in August 2001, “we need to utilise the potential of the CPLC to the optimum… we certainly need to learn a lot from them.”

In addition, over the years, the CPLC has been the subject of numerous glowing editorials — and when efforts have been undertaken to remove Yusuf, outraged ones.

So what led to Yusuf’s unceremonious dismissal?

According to reports it was a collusion of interests.

Since Nazim Haji resigned from the CPLC in 1996, there was continuing speculation about attempted coups in the organisation with an aim to restoring him in place of Jameel Yusuf. Although Haji declined from commenting on the issue saying only that he had refused all offers to take over the CPLC, earlier published reports on the issue are contrary to this contention. Yusuf’s case was not helped by the solid wall of resistance that built-up against him comprising certain political groups whose members had been apprehended for illegal activities through Yusuf’s efforts. And his growing involvement in detecting sectarian crimes had earned him the ire of some of the country’s fundamentalist lobbies. Although much pressure had been exerted upon Yusuf to either refrain from targeting select individuals, or to quit, Yusuf remained undaunted. And since he had the unwavering support of successive governors in the past and from the corps headquarters, it bolstered his position.

However, with the new political order in place, the situation changed. With an MQM stalwart at the helm in the governor’s house, it became clear that Yusuf’s days were numbered. Additionally, because one of the cases he tackled involved a serving military officer, Yusuf’s support from the corps also reportedly dried up. And with the inevitable resentment from sections of the police and other law-enforcement personnel, who saw Yusuf as a trespasser on their domain — not to mention a threat to certain lucrative business arrangements — Yusuf’s fate at the CPLC was all but sealed.

Now, to compound the manner in which he was removed, is the news that formal charges may be brought against Yusuf.

Several allegations have already been levelled against him. These include his “links” with the CIA and the US. Yusuf laughs when questioned about this. According to him, he lost his American residency because work pressure at the CPLC did not allow him to travel to the States to complete the formalities in time, and he says, he declined the offer of political asylum in the USA, made on account of his being in one of the most high-risk situations in the country following his help in cracking the Daniel Pearl case.

Yusuf also expresses surprise at charges levelled at him by certain members of the MQM. Said Kunwar Khalid Yunus, “Because the CPLC is a data-gathering cell, it has a great deal of sensitive information about everybody, from the governor to senior police officers. There were indications of Jameel Yusuf becoming like J. Edgar Hoover — using information as a tool to retain his post.” Yusuf cites the close cordial relationship he has had with various governors and police chiefs to debunk this charge.

Finally there are charges of financial malpractice, specially in relation to Trakker, a multinational vehicle tracking system — one of three companies licensed by the government of Pakistan — of which Yusuf’s son, Ali, is a director. Yusuf himself has no executive position in the company. Says Yusuf, “I have been accused of manipulating figures of auto thefts — maybe even organising the robberies — so that I can sell more systems. This charge is absurd. Trakker is a highly sophisticated system being used around the world. It is of great benefit to big corporations — several of whom have inducted the company’s services. Many of these corporations are based in other provinces where the CPLC does not operate. Am I organising thefts or fudging figures of vehicular robbery there too?” Interestingly, when Yusuf was removed from the CPLC, its bank balance stood at two crore, 35 lakh rupees.

While Yusuf concedes that no one should be indispensable to any organisation, equally important he states, is the need to create institutions that can weather the test of time and changing circumstances. “To put such a system in place requires time, effort and support,” he maintains. Towards this end in 1996, Yusuf devised the idea of a charter and an advisory board for the CPLC, comprising eminent citizens from Karachi, including among others, Fakhruddin Ibrahim, Lt. Gen. (Rtd) Moinuddin Haider, current attorney general, Pakistan, Makhdoom Ali Khan, current Pakistan High Commissioner to the UK, Abdul Kadir Jaffer, Hameed Haroon, Shamsh Kassim Lakha, Spenta Kandawalla, Liaqat Merchant, etc. It was proposed that in the matter of the appointment or removal of CPLC chiefs and deputies, the board would be the sole arbiter, and that the CPLC chief would serve a three-year term, which could be extended by board approval for another three years.

The first draft of the charter was approved by then governor Sindh, Kamaluddin Azfar in February 1996, subject to certain amendments. An amended draft was approved in August 1996 and forwarded to the secretary, Home Department Sindh.

Although the governor, Sindh in 1997, General Moinuddin Haider convened a meeting of the advisory board in July 1997, the matter of the charter remained unresolved. In September 2000, then governor Sindh, Mohammedmian Soomro asked for further discussion on the charter, and although the consequent amended draft was forwarded to the governor in January 2001, he once again asked for further deliberations on it and constituted a committee to review it. After a series of meetings, the committee finalised its report in January 2002, and submitted it to the governor for approval. On December 26, 2002, Governor Soomro approved and signed the charter, along with all the other relevant authorities, but it was not notified. And with Dr. Ishratul Abad’s ascension to Sindh governorship shortly thereafter, the matter was held in abeyance, where it remains to date.

Had the charter come into effect, and the advisory board deemed it necessary for a new leadership to be put in place at the CPLC, Yusuf could have been inducted as a member of the board so as to impart his knowledge and experience to his successsor and ensure a continuation in the organisation’s working. The advisory board could also have overseen the smooth transfer of power.

As matters stand today, Yusuf’s lieutenant, Sharfuddin Memon is temporarily running the CPLC ship, but its future remains uncertain. For the citizens of Karachi, this is no good news. As one woman who owes her daughter’s life to the CPLC put it, “Can you imagine the Edhi Foundation without Edhi? For us the CPLC without Jameel Yusuf means nothing.”