Policing in Balochistan - an account

Policing in Balochistan has seen many moons; various experiments have shaped up the present structure. A chronological study reveals the journey of evolution. During the colonial era (year 1883), the British Chief Commissioner of Balochistan Sir Robert Sandeman, introduced a system of governance for Balochistan after meticulously studying the underlying peculiarities. He conceived the idea of Levies, which would be recruited with the approval of local sardars and yet remain under the control of state's representative - Deputy Commissioner - so as to ensure peace, stability and dispensation of justice. Levies were created to control crime and maintain law and order. He was of the opinion that for turbulent areas, which are difficult to manage and are marred with fierce enmities and endless feuds, only appeasement and pacification can work where they would co-opt and work with the local sardars. Therefore, classification of 'A' and 'B' areas was drawn, wherein 'A' areas "had regular police where the judiciary carried out trials under the CrPC of 1898 and lawyers were allowed to represent the accused and the 'B' areas, controlled by Levies, lacked due process.

After the creation of Pakistan, status quo was maintained, and Sandeman style of policing remained intact in Balochistan. It was in the year 1968 when Criminal Law (Special Provisions) Ordinance, 1968 was issued by Ayub Khan's government, where Jirga system was legally recognised in “B” area, all the dispute would be settled through jirga. This Jirga law created a parallel system of justice. Moreover, in 1970, One Unit was abolished, which consequently re-created the province of Balochistan as a separate province. There was a renewed hope that rule of law and due process would be introduced.

Furthermore, in April 1976, Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto abolished sardari system. He visited Balochistan and subsequently issued an order to abolish the local tribal system. Thereby, the system of private justice was abolished and no individual or group could arrest or detain anyone or have private prisons, and they could not force anyone to work against his will. It was an unprecedented and a historic step, which greatly repudiated the inhuman tribal practices. However, unfortunately, he could not repeal the draconian 1968 Jirga Ordinance, which was applicable in 95% of the total area of Balochistan.

In those times, Police had limited space to operate; it was restricted to merely 5% of the total area of the province. However, there was a strong realisation, even at that time, that extension of police jurisdiction was not only necessary but inevitable. In the modern statecraft, state cannot be governed on local tribal values and customs. Laws reflect collective wisdom and protect the rights of all citizens alike, and above all, they represent a legal framework of the state and derive their legitimacy from the Constitution.

 In 1990, Balochistan High Court, in a landmark judgement, struck down the Ordinance of 1968, thereby abolishing the justice system administered through Jirga. It was a watershed moment. In this judgement, the procedural and substantive laws of criminal justice system (CrPC and PPC) were extended to the entire Balochistan province, whereby trial would be conducted by the Judicial Magistrate. In this new system, courts of law were to be established and judicial magistrates appointed to undertake judicial work. 

However, push to reform agenda came in the Musharraf regime. He introduced a body named National Reconstruction Bureau (NRB). It was made as an independent and autonomous body aimed at devising laws to empower people and revise colonial institutional arrangements through institutional reforms. Think tanks created under the NRB produced Police Order, 2002. The aim was to shift from a force model to 'service oriented model' with democratic oversight.

In 2003, federal government earmarked Rs. 5 billion for the conversion of 'B' areas of Balochistan into 'A' areas. It was an important departure from the past. The underlying aim was to empower the general public, dispense speedy justice, control crime and curb terrorism effectively and ensure writ of the state through police in otherwise tribal areas. To materialise this, a project was created in Central Police Office of Balochistan to monitor all the conversion process within the stipulated timeframe and ensure the provision of other necessary paraphernalia.

The process was started under Dr. Shoaib Suddle, the-then Inspection General of Police (IGP) in Balochistan. Fortunately, the political government, at both federal and provincial level, extended all possible assistance. In fact, the first three districts where writ of police was established (Quetta, Lasbela and Naseerabad), were the constituencies of ruling elite. Zafarullah Khan Jamali, the Prime Minister at the time, voluntarily offered his own constituency to be brought into the fold of 'A' area. Similarly, Jam Muhammad Yousaf, the then-CM of Balochistan, followed suit and offered his constituency, Lasbela, to be 'A' area.

Those were the ideal times; the police leadership was capable of steering reforms and speeding up conversion process. The political leadership was supportive and cooperated in ushering an era of rule of law and equal treatment for everyone. Chaudhary Yaqoob replaced Dr. Shoaib Suddle as IGP Balochistan. He served for a long period of time and ensured the continuity of conversion process without any breaks. He brought 10 more districts into 'A' areas. The consolidated base formally established was further culminated by another IGP Balochistan, Tariq Khosa. In his year-long tenure, he brought the remaining 17 districts into 'A' area. On August 14, 2007, IGP Balochistan Tariq Khosa gave independence gift to the people by converting all the districts to 'A' category. It was based on the premise that state protects better than the sardars. Tariq Khosa worked diligently on the conversion process and marshalled support from all the stakeholders. He worked in close collaboration with Chief Secretary K.B. Rind to ensure that Balochistan is governed by uniform police law. Eventually his efforts bore fruit, and he succeeded in the most agreeable pursuit.

However, all efforts to organise the police on professional lines and ensure rule of law received a setback. In 2008, Balochistan Provincial Assembly passed a resolution which reverted back all the areas from 'A' to 'B' category, similar to the arrangement prior to 2003. The resolution was passed on the pretext that the conversion process and newly established arrangements are costly and averse to the local traditions. It was a shattering blow that threw the province back into tribal times. It is time to gather again for rule of law and rights of people of Balochistan.


The writer is an officer of Police Service of  Pakistan, working in Balochistan and can be reached.


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