On Wednesday, the Police observed a special day dedicated to those who have sacrificed their lives in the line of duty. However, Police in Pakistan deserve much better. For far too long, they have been treated as a lackadaisical institution sans professionalism and service delivery. Owing to their colonial legacy of being used as an arm of the state to impose its writ, police have become a force instead of a service. As a result, the Police Act of 1861 has not been fully supplanted even after 73 years of independence.
Why have the Police reached this point and do not get the recognition that they deserve in Pakistan? This is because political interference and meddling has diluted the efficiency of this institution. Instead of providing operational autonomy, political masters use police to further their political interest and clout. This makes the police a force designed to maintain law and order instead of serving the community.
Furthermore, owing to deep political interference, police officers are not provided with tenure security and are left at the whims of political leaders. Instead of implementing people-friendly policies, they are pressured to work in accordance with the wishes of political leaders. As a result, the police have become a skeptical institution in the public eye, an arm of the state to control the masses instead of serving them.
Besides political interference, police are occasionally derided in the media. Despite progressing leaps and bounds and modernizing themselves in the wake of modern day crimes, the media still portrays police as an archaic institution, aloof from contemporary realities and happenings. This creates a chasm between police and the public and sows seeds of disillusionment in terms of law enforcement among people.
Apart from this, the military as an institution is considered very professional and efficient. Its public repute and organization shadows the progress made by police and the latter is always viewed from the prism of the former. Although there is no denying the fact that every institution is independent and must serve the people in the best way that it can, however, since national security in Pakistan is of paramount importance, the military has a strong history, better access to resources and stronger clout than other law enforcement agencies.
On top of this, the reform process to transform the police into a professional service has been lukewarm so far. The Police Order 2002, despite being a step in the right direction, has failed in its implementation. Balochistan and Sindh have fallen back to Police Act 1861, a legislation that envisages police as a colonial institution. Punjab and KPK have tweaked the PO 2002 and reintroduced political interference in it. The Police Order 2002 in its original form improved internal and external accountability of the police, made the service more transparent and independent, and exhorted steps towards community policing and transforming police into a professional service.
Having discussed the factors that have damaged police reputation and prevented their growth into a professional service, it is pertinent to discuss the achievements made by police and why they deserve better. Police sacrifices are largely ignored and do not make it to the mainstream media. Since 2006, around 1210 police personnel have sacrificed their lives in the line of duty. Moreover, in 450 suicide attacks since 2002, around 3700 police personnel have been martyred. These figures display the commitment, sacrifice and dedication that police exhibit in the line of duty.
Furthermore, the abating of terrorism and militancy in the country has largely been through the efforts of police and other law enforcement agencies. The coordinated response strategy between different LEAs helped in busting sleeper cells and preempting any terror activity. Police, CIA, and CTD have carried out joint investigations to usurp terror compounds. As a result, the wave of terrorism that once reached its peak has subsided.
Lastly, police are transforming despite facing hurdles and each day of policing is better than its predecessor. Surveillance projects like Safe City, use of latest technologies in investigation and forensics like DNA profiling and data forensics, and deploying new police units like Dolphin Force, which have abated street crime, have transformed police into a public service. Moreover, social media presence of police has assisted in creating linkages with the public, gaining feedback and ensuring community oriented policing. These steps are in the right direction and will soon transform police into a professional and independent service.
In conclusion, Police deserve better than what they get from the public. The institution has been battered by various political masters who have used the service to further their parochial political aims. Lack of operational autonomy, no tenure guarantee and dearth of resources prevented police from becoming a professional public service. Nonetheless, police have taken huge strides in transforming itself. From employing latest technologies and techniques in law enforcement and investigation, to taking full ownership in eradicating the menace of terrorism, Police have indeed transformed. It is now upon us to recognize their efforts and praise their sacrifices.
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