February Issue 2014

By | News & Politics | Q & A | Published 10 years ago

You have worked with the police for years. Given the amount of training and equipment they have, can our force effectively fight the number of militant groups operating in the city?

Things such as training and equipment are all secondary. The first priority is the independence of the police authority. Why did they have to be teamed up with the Rangers now? It’s because the Rangers are an independent authority. The officers are from the armed forces, so they are governed by the federal government and hence have a different chain of command.

The police does not have operational independence and that is why people have been talking about police reforms from the day Pakistan was made.  Whenever we are in trouble, we start thinking about reforms, but these are all symptoms of a larger problem.  It’s absurd to think about anything if you don’t have the capability.

After independence, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, wanted to put Karachi under a metropolitan police commissioner. Muhammad Ayub Khuhro was the chief minister then. The resolution was passed, almost everything was done. But then Quaid-e-Azam died and it fizzled out. Ever since Partition, there have been vested interests who do not wish to give independent control to the police. They want to put it under selective controls — either under a certain class of bureaucracy or under political control. It will probably always be under some political control but there has to be working independence.

We are applying short-term solutions. We are removing SHOs every two months. We are removing DIGs and SSPs. The tenure of the policemen is subject to the politicians’ whims. If they  please the person in power, their term is extended. This poses a problem.

The next question is: Can they fight mafias? Especially, when the mafia have their supporters among the bureaucracy and the politicians. In the last four or five years, there were six to seven thousand killings and yet nobody was held accountable. Why did the new government have to come and lodge an operation? I wouldn’t even call it an operation. That would be a misnomer. This is simply the upholding of the rule of law!

So, are you in favour of this targeted action?

Yes, but the way we are terming it — Phase-I, Phase-II, Phase-III. What’s going to happen next? After Phase-III ends, are they going to say, ‘Okay, now you can start killing again, you can take bhatta again, you can bring weapons?’ There has to be a continuity to the process. Every time there’s a murder or a killing, you hear somebody in power saying, ‘We have ordered that the criminals be arrested within 24 hours.’ Had it not been ordered, would they not be arrested? The reality is that even after the orders are passed, they’re never arrested.

What we are facing is terrorism. Nowhere in the world is terrorism fought at the level of local police stations. Not only is our police force not trained to combat terrorism, we simply do not have the numbers. There is one policemen for every 650 to 700 people, when ideally the ratio should be one policeman for every 275 to 300 people, or even lower.

We’ve got so many fully functional military training centres. Our policemen should be recruited from there. The training centres can provide the facilities for fitness and other academic tests, while a police board should be set up to conduct the final interviews. This would ensure quality recruitment. The police, after all, is like any armed force; so why not treat it as such?

Criminals, particularly in Karachi, are being released on parole. Did you witness this during your tenure as CPLC chief? 

No, not in my tenure at all. But in the past, some very hardened criminals were released on parole, who later disappeared. Even other countries release criminals on parole, but they do so under specific conditions. Also they fit them with trackers, and restrict them to certain areas.

I think first-time offenders can be released, but all such measures have to be institutionalised so that the same rules apply across the board for everybody and decisions are not made for political reasons. We do not have uniform rules and regulations; we interpret the law selectively to suit ourselves.

How do you compare the police as an institution with other law enforcement agencies such as the Rangers?

They have a different chain of command as well as better working and living conditions. They are not subject to any political interference. They have operational independence, and their recruitment is based on merit.

Presently the police are drawing a reasonable salary. The problem is that they are very understaffed. Consequently, they don’t get any time off. Their living quarters are poor and they don’t have access to proper healthcare. There are hardly any police hospitals, and those that exist are barely functional. We have not taken ownership of our police, and that is why we face multiple problems.

Where have we actually faltered?

We allowed the Police Order of 2002 to lapse. Introduced by General (retd) Pervez Musharraf, it was designed to free the police of political control, by bringing in the Public Safety Commission and Police Complaint Authority — these two important public institutions had not existed prior to that.

The Commission was entrusted with the task of fixing the tenure of a police officer and ensure that he worked with honesty and delivered. If he didn’t deliver he could be removed. The Complaint Authority was designed to prevent any injustice.

We need to introduce education and science into our police force. We need courses on criminology, terrorism, bombs and investigations. Everyone doesn’t have to be in uniform. We shouldn’t waste our time training a police officer on how to use a computer. Policing is no longer the job of a six-footer; technology has made it possible for anybody to develop that skill.

What other reforms do you suggest for the police department?

There was a time when they used to recruit inspectors and sub-inspectors directly. We need to reintroduce that. There are two ways to ensure that quality personnel are coming in: a) law graduates should be inducted as inspectors. Firstly, they will be educated and secondly, holding short courses of one to two months would really enable them to work effciently. Civilian cadres are needed for better prosecution and investigation. Educated people can prosecute, investigate, lodge a proper FIR and uphold the rule of law. And b) they need to induct women in the police force. Bangladesh has got a mandatory 35 per cent quota for women in the police force. We need to work to make our police more people-friendly. When people are afraid to lodge a complaint at a police station, criminals take advantage. The crime rate in America, Britain, France, India, or South Africa is much higher than in Pakistan.  Yet, people are comfortable there. Why? Because there the police is trained to serve the community.

At the end of the day, we need to have a national counter-terrorism authority. There should be sharing of data; liasing, devices for voice-matching, voice-recording, mobile trackers and email tracking. You have to harness technology — that’s the only way to catch the criminals now.

Is the CPLC equipped with this latest technology?

Since 2003, there has been no progress. When I was removed, I had developed a network that would link up all the jails in Sindh. Any prisoner entering or leaving the jail would be entered into the network, which would include his biographical data and criminal record. Many of these criminals return to crime again, even if they are released after 14 years. So if you have an old photograph of his, how can you recognise him now? Crime detection is linked with technology.

Political interference in police work has historically been a major hinderance. Did you face any difficulties in dealing with the police and/or the politicians?

I had no problems with anybody. When I started out, there was a People’s Party government, which was followed by the Muslim League and so on and so forth. If you’re doing a clean job, nobody tries to influence you. I am happy that nobody even tried. We dealt with a lot of issues from rape to divorce cases and we had a friendly approach towards citizens and a very tough approach vis-a-vis the criminals. No compromise and zero tolerance.

This interview was originally published in Newsline’s February 2014 issue.

Waleed Tariq is journalist. He can be interacted on Twitter @WaleedTariq89