URBAN GOVERNANCE KARACHI
Karachi city has seen its share of challenges in the past. A city that was hit by a crime wave in the early 90s, succumbed to its intensity. High crimes, higher lawlessness, extrajudicial killing, political and religious unrest were some of the non-stop issues that plagued the city of lights. Karachi being the largest business hub and work station, hosts over 22 million inhabitants from various ethnic backgrounds, having migrated from all over the country with diverse backgrounds, seeking work and refuge. We saw the past, with accusations of abetting the crime, complacency and moral, social and above all financial corruption. In order to clear the negative perception of the police, we needed positive “image –building”.
Police as Peacemakers – is the way forward. The objectives of the police as peacemakers to help create a pro-active civil society, ensure good governance, uphold rule of law, maintain transparency and help observance of basic human rights in society. Every day we come in contact with the police force, busy with many duties like regulating traffic, guarding VIPs, controlling crowds, escorting people to court, giving evidence, filing complaints or taking on criminals in the city. People have different experiences with the police, most being negative than positive. In reality, the police are public servants paid for by the citizens, hence their primary job is for the citizens, to protect, safeguard and serve them at all times.
The police has a duty towards the people. As responsible citizens, we must also change our perception and not fear them or go to them only when in difficulties. Both the people and the police have to work together as peace-builders. To see the police in a positive light, it is important to try and see them as “Peacemakers” .The government must take steps in building a more robust and active image of the police force by de-politicizing the force, making them more customer friendly. Core duties must be reviewed to reduce ‘divide’ between the average citizens and the police, due to a rising perception, that the police only protects the powerful and ignores the powerless.
Police powers must be clearly defined to benefit citizens and not intimidate them. The citizens must know that police is the first contact point in distress and emergencies, not the last . Each province has its own police service that is governed by each district. That is where the process must start and then cascade further down the chain of command. Anyone can become a police officer, after they qualify the physical and educational requirements laid down through initial assessments and a comprehensive training curriculum. According to UN standards, there must be 230 policemen for every 100,000 people. So we need bigger numbers.
Both men and women police personnel play the exact same role, without any gender bias, as we do need sufficient amount of female PO’s (police officers) to cater to the growing needs of the women population in the city. Specific duties are assigned to every officer from a constable to the Inspector General of Police. Educating the masses requires a confident people-friendly police force in the city.
Meritocracy is key. We must let go of the “Sifarish” culture on postings and promotions. We must have a defined code of conduct for police recruits by having yearly evaluations of their key performance indicators (KPI’s). Every city has a budget for the police, allocated exclusively for provision of police services. Proper documentation of that budget in a transparent manner must be enforced.
There is more sinister and more dangerous side to the police as well. Something that is common in our culture. It is the reputational risk that is associated with the police every time we talk about them. Connivance, bribery, obstruction of justice, illegal kick-backs, kidnapping, torture under detention, rape and murder in the name of law and religion. The police have been known to assist criminals and have even been implicated in terrorist financing and extreme terrorist activity.
Police as peace-breakers. Peace is relative to each and every one of us at citizens. We expect the law to be upheld by the police and not broken. We demand security of our families, our neighborhoods, our streets, our children’s schools and our women’s integrity. The amount of extra-judicial killings in the country supervised directly or indirectly by the police, still pose questions marks. There is a whole new process that needs to be in place to review the kind of police force that has been recruited on political grounds, bypassing all formats of merit that exist.
Case in point- there has been a significant in police corruption in the past decade in Pakistan, primarily due to politicization of the police, where politicians and bureaucrats have used influence the police department through nepotism and personal favoritism, by ensuring that the police-men are not hired on merit but are hired to work as their personal servants, assisting them in all kinds of illegal activities, even crimes.
One of the major breakthrough cases was of senior police official, who was arrested after being involved in a high profile killing of an innocent young man, falsely implicated as a terrorist and was exterminated by an official police hit squad, on the orders of a top man in the country’s structural matrix. This has been going on in all parts of the country, where laws are broken by policemen who are under illegal duty of senior non-governmental functionaries, primarily members of political parties, members of national and provincial assemblies, senators and other heads of private organizations with connections with the higher ups in the system.
This has apparently lead to a major governance failure in the country, where law protectors have become law makers. The current governments primarily agenda in their first term was to enforce police reforms in one of the provinces, but the remaining provinces, including big cities like Karachi, remain under threat of this disease where the citizens are left at the mercy of the men in uniform, with extremely low ethical and moral standards.
Pakistan has one of the worst police reforms in the world and very little effort has materialized, due to major political influence of the elite and powerful, destroying the basic fabric of society at large. We are at a point where the law is being protected and influenced by thugs, leading to extreme insecurity across the board. To take this massive initiative, we have to “de-politicize” the entire police network by ensuring that process recruitment, training and hiring procedures are ensured by senior officials of the highest personal and professional caliber. The core issue of “moral corruption” has to be addressed by the top leadership of the country, with zero tolerance for any and all corrupt police men who are law-breakers.
As Peacemakers, we need to ensure that we build trust between public and the police. We also must see that the police force is given proper compensation, health and housing with other benefits, to motivate them to perform better. CRPC (Code of Criminal Procedure), includes a set of rules for the police to follow- that applies for the victim and the accused separately. PPC-Pakistan Penal Code, includes certain codes of conduct that come under “crimes” or “offences”. Both have to be clearly explained to the public, to ensure a more peaceful and well-informed general public.
To become successful role models for the city, police as peacemakers must ensure that the public understands the law, comprehends it and follows it with complete confidence
Police must become good-will ambassadors for the citizens, especially to 65% of the “youth population” of Karachi and work as reliable guides and comrades. To do that, they have to ‘lead by example’ by ensuring that they themselves are well versed in communication and that they reach out to public with empathy and play their part in ensuring peace and harmony.
As they say, “A kind heart and a brave spirit goes a long way”. We need our police force as a brave, caring and determined unit. A truly amazing police force for the city of Karachi.