November issue 2010

By | People | Q & A | Published 14 years ago

“Implement the Police Order 2002, to depoliticise police”
– Jameel Yusuf Founder Chief, CPLC


Q: There has been a lot of talk about crackdowns to address Karachi’s problems. What is your view on this?

A: I am not bothered about crackdowns. I say please establish the rule of law. And what does the rule of law say? If there is a murder, you have to solve the case; if there is extortion and bhatta, it must be stopped.

Q: So by establishing the rule of law you feel things can be set right?

A: Just by enforcing traffic laws, the whole tempo of the city will change. There is no society in the world that can survive without the rule of law. Even in America, on the highways, people break the speed limit using the radio to warn each other of where the cops or cameras are, and they immediately slow down if they are near.

You don’t see policemen on the roads there. Over here, it is the reverse. You see policemen on the roads and yet there is no rule of law.

We have actually lost the fear of the police and losing that fear is the worst thing that can happen in a society.

Q: Who can instil this fear and establish the rule of law?

A: The home minister and the chief minister.

Most of the people roaming around with tinted glasses and arms and ammunition are powerful people — all the influential people’s children are roaming around like this. Tell them to either stay at home or go out decently.

Once you start taking action against them, the weaker ones will get scared.

Announcements are made claiming: ‘We are going to conduct a heavy crackdown on tinted glasses and fancy number plates and people roaming with arms and ammunition,’ and yet nothing is done. What message are you sending out? That please go ahead and do what you like, we are not going to do anything to you?

If you find anybody burning a car, hand him over to the police. Catch them and expose them. You do it once or twice and it will cease.

During his rule as governor, Moinuddin Haider had said, anybody caught burning a vehicle would be arrested and would have to pay the cost of the vehicle. And the police did actually catch them and make them pay for the vehicles. So everybody was cautious.

Right now the police is politicised. If they want to catch somebody, they need permission. The ruling party is not going to give them permission to catch their own workers, or those from parties they support, or with whom they are are involved in a bit of wheeling and dealing.

Q: How does one depoliticise the police?

A: You’ve got the Police Order, 2002, in place. Implement it in its true form.

The Police Order states that the police will be answerable to a public safety commission, which is supposed to be a tri-member team — this was my brainchild of the ’90s but it materialised in 2002 with Musharraf. Chaudhary Shujaat, though, spoiled it. He persuaded Musharraf to change the rules.

Believe me, if the Police Order had been in place, even Musharraf could not have given illegal orders to mishandle Geo or manhandle the CJ. Neither could Nawaz Sharif have ordered the then Karachi police chief Maqbool Rana to arrest Musharraf on arrival from Sri Lanka.

Every ruler in this country has tried to use the police force as his personal brand of servants. Otherwise you have good institutions, good police officers.

Q: So politics and policing, and politicians and the police force need to be separated…

A: Yes, they need to be separated. The biggest enemy of this Police Order was the bureaucracy of Punjab. Punjab waged the biggest resistance, Sindh did not resist it so much.

Q: Because their clout would be undermined if implemented…

A: That’s another mafia. The politicians want the police to work as their servants, and the bureaucracy wants to do the same. So they didn’t allow the Police Order to be implemented. But now, with the current situation where over 1,300 people have been killed this year and hardly any arrests have been made, it is clear evidence that we need a depoliticised police force which is answerable to the community itself.

Q: And you believe this would happen with the Police Order, 2002?

A: Half of the public safety commission comprises elected people and half are nominated. This commission would be the first example where the leader of the house and the opposition are both represented. And if they are both represented then they both have to own the police.

Japan is the best model of policing — it has both the public safety commission and the police complaint authority in place. Their rate of conviction is 98%.

The 2002 Order also requires a police complaint authority to be set up. Anybody with a complaint against the police or who has been brutalised by them, can go to the authority. And there are severe punishments for police officials who are found guilty.

There also has to be a criminal coordination committee in which the session judge, the public prosecutor, the head of investigation SP and investigation officers are all supposed to meet every quarter and ascertain reasons as to why the conviction rate is going down.

Q: So after its implementation, we will not have parties complaining of how few SHOs they have and how many more their counterparts in the city have?

A: No, they would not. They would have no say in recruitment. The government has stated that the recruitment of a lot of the police officers was wrong. But who recruited them? They did, with their ‘five is yours, four is mine, three is theirs’ formula.

Q: Like the police, charges have been levelled against the Rangers too, that they run away from the scene of the crime. Have the Rangers been politicised too?

A: Rangers are a paramilitary force so they are more on the army side. But there has to be accountability for them too. A lot of money is being spent on them whereas they are just sitting like a decorated bride the whole time. Is it worth it? Is it worth having two forces?

If you depoliticise the police, then the police and Rangers can all come under one command and control and you can use your resources and funds properly. It has to be that way.

Why not have a crack force with say the CPLC, police and Rangers. People are willing to confide in the CPLC; it can act as the coordinating factor as far as bhatta and extortion is concerned. They are already dealing with kidnapping for ransom cases.

This way you can come down harder.

Q: Could you shed some light on the criminal networks and their activities in Karachi.

A: There is extortion, bhatta, drugs. No effort is being made where drugs are concerned, a matter that is supposed to be dealt with by the excise and taxation police internally, and by the coastguards who cover the outer ring. The customs also is not doing anything.

Drugs are going unchecked, although most of the crime — car thefts, parts being stolen, petty crimes — are because of drugs and committed by drug addicts.

Q: Have you been able to identify criminal groups? The MQM has mentioned the names of Baba Ladla, Jabbar Langra, Rehman Dakait.

A: There are very few groups that have really been identified. Baba Ladla and all are political party workers. Many of them have aliases and pet names and some group members have been given names like Langra. Many belonging to their gangs have been killed.

Q: Zulfiqar Mirza has been charged with patronising the Lyari Amn Committee…

A: Lyari is not a recent problem, it has existed for many years. Why take it personally? It is the stronghold of the PPP, but it has never done any development work there. Water was given to it by the MQM.

Lyari used to be an industrial hub linked to Shershah. The tanneries used to be there. If you come downwards from Shershah now, there is a cluster of unauthorised construction, small lanes, dirtiness, filth. You can’t expect too much goodness from there. All the calls for bhatta and extortion that come now can all be traced back to Lyari. The numbers, addresses, NICs are from Lyari.

Remember the time there was a procession from the Karachi Press Club when the news first circulated about a crackdown in Lyari? All the women from Lyari came over — they were brought there specially — and the government tapped them on their back and told them nothing was going to happen in Lyari.

That was the wrong thing to do. There was no need to do that. They have conducted so many operations in Lyari before, why was there no procession of ladies before?

Also, while the drug mafia and extortionists are present in Lyari, 98% of the people living there are peaceful and good citizens. They have been there from Partition. We cannot forget their roles. Maximum labour in KPT is from Lyari. The entire fishing industry comprises people from Lyari. They are hard working. The women from there used to be old maasis with whom we, as children, have grown up. Their families are all there. The truth is, there are good and bad people everywhere.

Q: Recently, when it was announced in the news that there will be a crackdown in Lyari, crowds gathered to protest against it. The same happened earlier this year, in January.

A: They will keep on doing it now since they were encouraged the first time this happened. It was after that, that bhatta and extortion skyrocketed. In the timber and electronics market, and in Jodia Bazaar, extortion was carried out to the hilt. Extortionists would even go to the beach huts at night and throw grenades if those building the huts did not give them money.

These are parasites. Once you give them leverage, they go to the next level. They go for kidnapping for ransom. Rehman Dakait was initially not involved in kidnappings, Arshad Pappu was. I had even busted him. Some of the abducted were recovered from his house. His father and brother, who were living in the area of the Mewashah graveyard, were also involved. Alongside, they were dealing in drugs and were involved in land-grabbing.

Q: Do we have any success stories, where criminals have been caught, tried and punished?

A: Hardly 3-4%. Those 3-4% that are convicted are those stupid fools who do not have friends or do not have money.

Q: And the bigger criminals remain at large…

A: The whole system has collapsed, including the judicial system of convictions. There is no study being done as to why criminals are being acquitted. A criminal involved in crime repeatedly is not behind bars and is given bail.

When the judiciary is taking cognisance of one thousand other things, why can’t it take cognisance of this?

Here, there is a difference between India and Pakistan. India became very strong because leading lawyers did public interest litigation free of cost over there. This is why Indian society has changed. Here, because of the costs, how many cases can an individual pursue? Eventually, he gives up.

Q: The question everybody is asking is whether there is any political patronage of criminal gangs and mafias, or are they operating independently?

A: I never bothered about the political patronage aspect when I was at CPLC. That is irrelevant. If you have the rule of law, you are not bothered. If I am dealing with a case of extortion, I will get the guy — political patronage or no patronage. I work on the mistakes of the criminal.

During my 15-year tenure as head of CPLC, I caught kidnappers and terrorists. There were a lot of people involved: Sindhis, Balochis, Mohajirs, Punjabis, Pathans. I didn’t get any phone calls.

All criminals like to associate with the people in power. But that doesn’t mean that the people in power are privy to all their activities or support them.

Q: The MQM claims that sophisticated weaponry is flowing in from the northern part of the country.

A: The people in the northern part of the country have been dealing in arms and ammunition for an umpteen number of years. But I’ve got a solution for that.

They need their food stuff, so all of them should be employed under the army in Wah Cantt, where they make arms and ammunitions. They should be taught metrology. They make beautiful handmade weapons; we could even induct all of them into a local industry and use it for export. There are a lot of business houses that would love to export handmade weapons.

So if they are employed, then they would not have their shops. Why would you need to have a shop selling rocket launchers then? If this had happened, we would have been in a really good position.

Musharraf had a good chance of doing this, but he missed it.

Q: Here, you find a lack of political will to do good…

A: What have the political governments been? Jam Sadiq Ali, one vote — he was the CM because of the MQM votes. Arbab Ghulam Rahim, MQM votes. This is the first time the PPP government is in majority, it does not need anybody’s vote to be in power. It doesn’t need to be in a coalition. It is very good they went for a coalition, but when they went for it, all the coalition partners should have come out more strongly in support so that they could have jointly put forth better governance. What better time when there is no opposition? But they are not even doing that.

The way I see it, the ANP is being supported by the PPP to neutralise the MQM. But the PPP must realise that the MQM is here to stay. It is a part of this city. They should have held the local government elections and put it in place. It brought in a lot of people and it did us tremendous good. We were totally at the mercy of the bureaucrats prior to that, who just didn’t do anything. And what’s happening now?

Is the garbage being picked up? Are the roads being developed? Nothing. It has all been at a standstill for a year.

Q: What should be done about the weapons situation in the city? Citizens feel they require arms for their personal safety as the law-enforcement agencies are not doing the needful, and argue that, under the constitution, they are entitled to keep licensed arms.

A: When I went through arms licenses, I found that even people who were jobless had licenses. Who needs protection — somebody who is a ‘have,’ right?

For licensed weapons I say please link it to the tax bracket. Levy some slabs, have an annual fee on it.

Like I said before, it is a simple rule. No tinted glasses, fake number plates, or armed guards without uniforms. If you’re scared for your life, pay through your nose and get a uniformed armed guard. It’s not allowed otherwise.

Q: Every few months some operation or the other is conducted, but nothing substantial comes of it. Is deweaponisation in Karachi possible? And is there any data available as to the number of weapons and the kinds of weapons there are in the city?

A: All our deweaponisation programmes have failed. We have tried it three or four times and every time the bureaucracy makes a mess of it. They don’t have records, or computerised data of arms and ammunition.

When I was in the committee on law and order for three years, the arms and ammunition shops were not allowed to sell weapons etc. We wanted to computerise all the records going back several years — i.e. which weapon was sold, what the number was, what was the number of the bullets. Every weapon leaves a mark, it has an ID. So when you do forensics, you know this bullet was imported by so and so person, this shop sold it.

But there was nothing to work with.

Q: You think there are primarily four parties who are the main stakeholders in this situation — i.e. the ANP, PPP, MQM and the citizens?

A: Yes, out of the 144 people killed, 123 were citizens. This nomenclature of target killings is wrong. Targets are always high profile people — a thela-wala is not a target. You’re using him just to create that terror.

I have another theory. Even if the political parties are not at war with each other, the terrorists are there. If you look at crime in the first six to eight months, say July 2009 onwards, it was positively seen as a pattern of terrorism.

It started with Lyari, moved on to the Pathans being bumped off, then MQM people being killed, then became sectarian [Shia/Sunni] doctors and returned back to the MQM and Lyari.

All that was not to do with target killings. It was to create a feeling of terror in the city. What does a terrorist do or send a suicide bomber for? To create unrest and shake one’s confidence in the government.

Q: Aren’t the ethnic demographics of the city at play during such incidents of violence? What about the stratification of the city into pockets with some places known as Mohajir areas or Pakhtun areas?

A: It is has always been like this. After the Afghan war, the Pakhtuns were all staying on the superhighway. Nobody registered them, nobody gave them anything. They came, lived in the city and became a part of it. The katchi abadis developed. They were allowed to occupy land. They became industrial workers. Now they’re driving the buses and are very important.

This does contribute to the situation but what is more important is to pay heed to what the MQM has been shouting about for a long time. There has been a lot of movement, especially after the earthquake, and now with the floods. Register who is coming, otherwise they could be mixed up with terrorists and criminals.

The government must also exercise a policy of zero-tolerance towards crime of any kind and at whatever level. The situation is getting out of hand. Karachi is the economic hub and a lot of investment is waiting to come in. Things need to be put in place — and the frustrating bit is, it all so doable.

This interview accompanied the November 2010 cover story, Karachi’s Mean Streets.

Farieha Aziz is a Karachi-based journalist and teacher. She joined Newsline in 2007, rising to assistant editor. Farieha was awarded the APNS award for Best Investigative Report (Business/Economic) for the year 2007-2008. She is a co-founder and Director at Bolo Bhi, an advocacy forum of Digital Rights.