Reforming Pakistan's Police

Posted in Pakistan | 14-Jul-08 | Source: International Crisis Group

Pakistani police officers stand guard in front of the Supreme Court building during a lawyers rally in Islamabad, Pakistan on Thursday, July 10, 2008.

Islamabad/Brussels, 14 July 2008: Major reforms to the dysfunctional Pakistani police force are urgently needed if the country’s newly-elected government is to ensure a secure state and efficient counter-terrorism measures.

Reforming Pakistan’s Police,* the latest report from the International Crisis Group, says the current force is incapable of combating crime, upholding the law, or protecting citizens and the state against militant violence. A change in mindset and legislation is needed urgently, because the transition to democracy could falter if deteriorating security gives the military a new opportunity to intervene and justify derailing the democratic process on the grounds of good governance.

Six years after it promulgated its 2002 Police Order governing the functioning of the force, the military government of President Pervez Musharraf had established very few public safety commissions, supposedly the cornerstone of the accountability process, and those that existed lacked enforcement mechanisms. The police remained political pawns, with transfers and promotions used to reward those willing to follow illegal orders and to punish the few officers who dared to challenge their military masters. As an institution, it was widely distrusted and disliked by citizens.

Police reform should be high on the agenda of the democratically-elected governments that have now taken power at the centre and the provinces. Unlike the military did for years, they cannot afford to ignore the demands of constituents for safety and security.

“Political appointments must end; postings, transfers, recruitment and promotions must be made on merit alone”, says Samina Ahmed, Crisis Group’s South Asia Project Director. “The recommendations of police managerial bodies must be given due weight, and emphasis placed on the police serving and protecting citizens”.

The international community, particularly the U.S. and the European Union, should realise that helping the police and civilian intelligence agencies with training and technical assistance would pay counter-terrorism dividends. The government and its Western allies would be best served by reallocating resources from the military to the police. This means not only more money and the latest weapons and equipment, but vitally also better training and an end to military dominance and control of internal law enforcement institutions, processes and decision-making.

“The new civilian government has inherited a brutal and corrupt police force”, says Robert Templer, Crisis Group’s Asia Program Director. “Reform will be difficult and requires time, patience and resources, but it is essential to undertake it”.

Contacts: Andrew Stroehlein (Brussels) +32 (0) 2 541 1635
Kimberly Abbott (Washington) +1 202 785 1601

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The International Crisis Group (Crisis Group) is an independent, non-profit, non-governmental organisation covering some 60 crisis-affected countries and territories across four continents, working through field-based analysis and high-level advocacy to prevent and resolve deadly conflict.