Law and Order Situation in Pakistan
Various untoward incidents of bomb explosions at the public places, perpetration of suicide bombings by extremist elements bathed in religion and dogmatism and firing of bullets on the innocent civilians by the miscreants bear out that volatile law and order situation is gravely affecting social, political, economic and religious fabric of Pakistan. This unwanted state of affairs has given birth to uncertainty and frustration which are acting as blight in our society. No public place is secure, no religious institution is sacrosanct and no spiritual or political congregation is safe.Talented people are leaving the Land of the Pure for good because their fate is in the doldrums due to uncertainty of jobs and insecurity to their life and property. Thus menace of “Brain Drain” is continuously depriving the country of the intellectuals that are the true assets of the country to resolve its intricate problems.
Our tourism industry is in the doldrums due to security concerns. Despite scenic beauty of hilly areas, glistening peaks, towering mountains, gushing rivers, archeological sites, and historical monuments ,the PTDC and the Tourism Ministry have badly failed to catch the attention of the foreign tourists because no one will take risk to visit a country where indigenous population is not secure and its rulers address public gatherings behind bullet proof screens. Pakistan has a lot of investment potential which could not be fully tapped because of violent incidents. Therefore, the economy of Pakistan is in the shambles. The investors fear of sinking their investment due to unending terrorist incidents.
The worst victims of law and order as well as poor economy are always the poor. Their vulnerability to shocks is more than others. Therefore, it is imperative that any analysis of the impact of law and order on economic situation must start with the most vulnerable in the society. In other words, no study of economic situation is complete without taking account of at least three interrelated economic indicators of poverty, unemployment, inflation, particularly food inflation.
Our study has seen positive correlations between crime and major economic variables: when there are negative trends in the economy (increase in inflation, poverty, unemployment, and decline in investment) there are negative trends in law and order (increase in crime rate).
The role of police force is vital for maintaining law and order situation in the country.
Since 9/11 and the consequent US/NATO military action in Afghanistan, Pakistan’s troubled northwestern frontier has come under increasing pressure from militant and terrorist organizations operating in the area. Pakistan’s deficient and flawed law enforcement capacity in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and the adjacent North West Frontier Province (NWFP) have helped Pakistani Taliban and other terrorist groups expand their influence and strongly challenge the state’s writ. Outgunned and outfinanced, on average 400 police officers have been killed every year in terrorist attacks since 2005. Controversial and haphazard Pakistani military action in the area has led to more instability, and limited resistance in FATA has now become a growing ethnic insurgency. As is clear from the turmoil in the NWFP’s Swat district, any army action can provide no more than a breathing space to the state; only police and law enforcement actions can help the state reestablish its writ and stabilize the area. A timely police action can be more effective in quelling emergent insurgencies. My research into the 2007 Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) crisis in Islamabad, where a strong military operation led to hundreds of deaths and dozens of retaliatory suicide attacks, also indicates that: (a) an effective police action in time (2004–05) could have avoided the later bloody clash and (b) the police lacked authority and the permission of the state and its important institutions to legally pursue the rebel clerics in the mosque (during the 2004–07 timeframe).
The police infrastructure is one of Pakistan’s most poorly managed organizations. It is aptly described as ill-equipped, poorly trained, deeply politicized, and chronically corrupt. It has performed well in certain operations; overall, however, that is a rare phenomenon. Arguably, the primary reason for this state of affairs is the government’s persistent failure to invest in law enforcement reform and modernization. It is ironic that despite frequent internal crises since its inception in 1947, ranging from ethnic confrontations and sectarian battles to a sharp rise in criminal activity and growing insurgencies, both political and military policymakers have never given this sector top priority. Hence, poor police performance in counterterrorism and counterinsurgency is not surprising. The fact that the police successfully challenged some militant religious groups in Punjab and tackled an insurgency-like situation in Karachi in the late 1990s shows that they do have the potential to deliver the desired results when political support is present and resources are provided.
The Sialkot incident was yet another example of a society calling its protectors for help in the face of a sorry state of human rights and rule of law. This episode of barbaric killings was not the first of its kind. There have been quite a few attempts of similar nature in the past 12 months, especially in Karachi where the people had literally assumed the role of law enforcers as well as the judiciary. There was a need for serious action back then which, unfortunately, was never taken and which ultimately culminated in the demise of two brothers in Sialkot.
However, what was most depressing at Sialkot was the silent presence of law enforcers alongside a violent crowd. It depicts not only the weakness of the Police Department, but also their indifferent attitude towards the law. In fact, their silent presence encouraged the crowd to commit the barbaric act of public killing and hanging. The police simply did not try to enforce the law and for that they ought to be punished. The Police Order 2002 which governs their duties highlights penalties that can be imposed for gross negligence that cost the lives of two young men.
According to Police Order 2002, it is the duty of the police to provide protection and maintain public peace. Section 3(d) of the said order, in this respect is attention-grabbing. It enjoins upon the police to “…aid individuals who are in danger of physical harm.” With such clearly laid down rules, it was nothing but wilful defiance on the part of the police which caused the deaths. Also, their silence in the midst of criminal activity implicates them in the crime. Section 107 of Pakistan Penal Code is directly applicable in this regard on “a person who intentionally aids, by any act or illegal omission, the doing of that thing.” Both the laws taken together clearly signify breach of law by the police officers.
According to Section 80 of the Police Order, function of the Provincial Public Safety and the Police Complaints Commission is to take action against the omissions committed. It is under a statutory duty to do so, on its own accord, if the case is of severe nature, and order a competent authority to probe the matter. But to the dismay of fair-minded people of the country, no action was taken, and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court had to take up the matter.
A still gloomier picture appears when the incident is seen in the light of the punishment that has been prescribed for the police neglect. According to Section 155 of Police Order, if an officer is found to have breached his duty, he can be, at maximum, imprisoned with fine for no more than three years. Considering the gravity of the criminal acts, this punishment would hardly fulfil the demands of justice and in no way constitutes deterrence.
More importantly, investigation is the main course to decide the fate of the guilty officer. But the slow pace of investigation, inability and ill will of the investigating officer or the team usually overshadows the proceedings that could provide an easy escape to the culprit. While the judicial inquiry into the Sialkot murders has been completed, the Police Department does not appear to show any seriousness in conducting its own inquiry.
This incident highlights a signal failure of our police not only in the light of local law, but also the international code to which Pakistan subscribes. The United Nations has provided a Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials (adopted by General Assembly resolution 34/169 of December 17, 1979) which sets out the basic standards for policing agencies across the world and relates to all law enforcement officers who exercise powers of arrest and detention. It requires them to recognise the rights set out in the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and other international conventions. Under its Article 5, a law enforcer is restrained from “tolerating any act of torture”, while discharging his duties.
This grave violation brings out the need for reform in the system and revitalisation of the existing bodies established to check the police conduct such as Provincial Public Safety and Police Complaints Commission. It is necessary to establish a system which is easily accessible and neutral. In the UK, the Police Reform Act established the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) which investigates the most serious complaints and allegations of misconduct against the police in England and Wales, as well as handles appeals from people who are not satisfied with the way the police have dealt with their complaint. More importantly, IPCC is self-governing, making its decisions entirely independently of the police, government and complainants. These measures provide for a powerful legal regulatory framework making the police accountable for their actions. There is a stark need to introduce some changes on the same lines in Pakistan.
Hence, the need of the hour is to introduce and implement a more coherent code for police accountability to eliminate the recurrence of such despicable acts in the future. The Sialkot act requires serious attention of the authorities and a strong reprimand of the officials whose criminal omission allowed the people to take law into their own hands. Indeed, now is the time to set an example and take appropriate steps to put an end to such wrongdoings!