LAHORE - The PML-N leaders are being taken to task by their opponents on account of bad police performance. The criticism is well-founded since the rulers have failed to reform the corruption-riddled law enforcing agency. Since 1985 to-date, Sharif brothers are in power for the 6th term in the Punjab province where police work is plummeting.
The Model Town tragedy has further exposed the system in place as nobody knows who is supposed to do what in a particular situation. Had the rules of the game been clear, everyone would have known who had ordered the police to open fire on the PAT protesters in Lahore.
Combating terrorism is a case in point. The budget 2014-15 reveals that any resources are hardly earmarked for improving the capability of the law enforcing agencies or the intelligence agencies. Instead billions of rupees are doled out for the mega projects like Metro bus system in this insurgency-infested state.
The Punjab police are virtually under attack from all and sundry since 10 activists were gunned down while they were protesting against the removal of barriers installed at the PAT Secretariat. The mess-up in the police has raised many eyebrows, thanks to the PML-N leadership. In their campaign manifesto, the PML-N had pledged the much-needed police reforms but that’s still a slogan.
From fake police encounters to killings in custody and rampant corruption to misuse of powers remains the hallmark of the country’s largest law-enforcing agency.
Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif had promised establishment of 100 Model Police Stations in 36 districts of the province. Unfortunately, the government failed to make even a single model police station fully operational yet.
What to say about the change in Thana culture in the Punjab, where the police ‘encountered’ more than 375 times the alleged criminals during 2012. At least 372 alleged gangsters were killed in staged and fake shootouts, suggesting an alarming rise in the ‘extra-judicial killings’ in the ‘Sharif Regime’.
Despite the CM, during his six-year plus tenure, took some initiatives including sufficient raise in salary packages, training of policemen from Pakistan Army, arranging refresher courses for police officers in Turkey, the police working is like an open secret with no visible changes on the ground.
As a mater of fact, Shahbaz Sharif interviewed every police officer before ordering the appointment on key post. While many police officers consider such action as a direct interference into the police affairs some political leaders say that the chief minister has the authority to pick up right man for the right job. Insiders say that the PML-N administers cops transfers and postings, viewing their political affiliations rather than service tenure and expertise.
The crime-graph has swelled significantly in the Punjab province during the first quarter of 2014 as compared to the last year, since the incidents of murder, abduction, rape, auto-lifting, and armed robberies are on the rise. Even the total number of cases of crime also witnessed a steep rise with registration of 95435 cases during the first quarter of this year as compared to 87484 in 2013. Whenever high crime-rate is pointed out before the provincial hierarchy, the rulers try to justify it stating that it is because of ‘free and immediate’ registration of cases.
Again, the Model Town tragedy has exposed this claim as the victims are still denied the right of getting an FIR registered with the police.
In Balochistan, IGP Mushtaq Ahmed Sukhera successfully purged police of all kinds of influence and political pressure besides boosting the morale of the law enforcing agency by taking multiple initiatives.
But in the Punjab, the situation is altogether different. Shahbaz Sharif himself interviews, short-lists, and orders the appointments of officers on key posts. Will the new Punjab IGP Sukhera bow down to political pressure like his predecessors or he will struggle to get freehand, is a million dollar question.
The more the political leaders would keep themselves away from using police powers, the better the department could be made accountable to help improve law-enforcement.
The police must be purged from politics, but the task is almost impossible given the circumstances in a society, where the influential and pressure groups rule the roost.