Saturday, March 29, 2008


By: Muhammad Mahtab Bashir

Unrest, fraud, killing and terrorist activities are not unprecedented in this country called the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Killing spree based on ethnicity and rivalry has been carried out regularly, but the government has always failed to arrest the murderers. These occurrences have reached such a level that even police officers were recently gunned down by unidentified persons in Lahore. This type of incident surely develops anxiety and fretfulness within a common man and he starts thinking, “If police officers’ lives are at stake, how can a common man like me expect the smooth flow of my life?”

According to Aristotle and Plato, the primary responsibility of the state is to implement law and order and justice should be provided to all. Unfortunately, it has never been observed in this country since its inception. The responsibility of the state is also to provide food and shelter to its citizens, failing which causes social abnormality. Social conflict and social deviance is the outcome of injustice and injustice persuades the individual to record his protest. In a way to satisfy his inner needs and to shed his frustration, he opts to use unfair means. The ultimate question arises, how can one improve the deteriorating law and order situation?

In the new set up, the district council has the authority to create a public safety commission to ensure that police personnel are not used inappropriately as well as to look after the welfare of the police cadre. Offices of the ombudsman are to be set up at the district level to redress complaints against maladministration. The ombudsman will be appointed by the district council. A citizen tribunal is also being established at the union council level. Concerted efforts from law enforcing agencies are required at every level, without discrimination as the first step.

By creating the above openings under the decentralised policy framework, the government has recognised that all reforms need to have a rights based approach and human rights in all sectors and perspectives need to be protected. The state of human rights and law and order can never be improved unless (a) judicial systems are robust in providing access to justice to the communities, (b) improving law and order and (c) creating social and civic awareness about human rights, its issues and situation in the country. A stringent implementation regime will lead to improvements in its efficacy and consequently stimulate economic growth and encourage private investment, both domestic and foreign, which will directly and indirectly lead to alleviating poverty, thus be a major tool for improving not only the law and order situation but also human rights.

Police should handle the law and order situation with professionalism and refrain from illegal actions like extra-judicial killings, torture or fake encounters. “The duty of police officers ranges from prevention and detection of crime to behaving with members of the public with due decorum and courtesy.” Guiding and assisting members of the public, particularly the poor, the disabled and the physically weak helps in promoting amity. Police should not interfere in matters involving civil disputes. Police should advise the person coming to them for registration of cases in civil matters to approach the concerned court. Police officers should do everything to meet the call of their duty, complete investigation and submit challans in court within time. This will greatly contribute to the improvement of administration of justice. The policemen should maintain idealism in life and never lose patience, objectivity and human values. A police officer must enter the profession with a commitment and zeal to bring a change, a pleasant change.

In spite of all its tall claims, the government has failed to reform the country’s police. Police stations remain torture cells. Police personnel have been found involved in dacoities. Recently several persons in police custody have been tortured to death. Rape cases of innocent young girls belonging to poor families have taken place in these police stations. If the government itself orders the police to raid students’ hostels at night, and resort to violence against teachers, women and students, how then does it hope to reform it?

Instead of sincere and serious efforts to remove people’s hardships, the government merely depends upon superfluous tactics. At times, people are invited on the phone to talk directly to the prime minister, and at times, the drama of open public kachehri is arranged. Neither the government will gain anything nor problems of the public would be solved through such useless activities.

Published in daily The Post, 23 May, 2007

Muhammad Mahtab Bashir

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