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Sir: An advice of a seasoned instructor of a Police Training Institution is valid even today: “Never visit a police station without a prior intimation.”
‘Change in Thana culture’ has become a political rhetoric amongst Pakistan’s police inspectors and politicians, who initiate their tenures with the promise to change the culture of police stations. The image of the police in our country is such that a self -respecting citizen avoids contacting the police officials even in times of crisis.
A police station occupies a pivotal position in the criminal justice system, which includes the courts, prisons and the probation service. The basic unit of the police organisation is headed by a Station House Officer (SHO), who is supposedly endowed with excessive authority as an outcome of colonial legacy. After the Station House Officer ranks the station clerk, who interacts directly with the public. This duo, the SHO and his clerk control the police station realm and influence the thana culture or the police occupational culture (POC). POC defines the professional conduct and public profile of the police personnel and supposedly transcends the geographic boundaries and tribal considerations of the place in question. The Punjab Police and the Frontier Police for example, share remarkable similarities in the performance of their functions and conduct, in spite of the differences in regional cultures of the two provinces.
This issue to tackle the pejorative image of the police amongst the public has not been adequately addressed by the commissions and committees appointed by the government. About twenty years ago the Police Station Reorganization Committee headed by Mr Mohmmed Ali Khan Chaudhry developed some recommendations and after that there has not been any committee to revise and recommend the role of a police station according to the criminal justice system of the 21st century.
The most significant function of the police that is also subjected to numerous abuses is the recording of First Information Report (FIR). The Higher Courts on one hand have passed several strictures on the abuse of authority by the police officials but due to resource constraint, the officials continue to charge fees for recording the FIR. According to the reports in the national and regional press, incidences of non-acceptance of reporting crime by the police have been increasingly unabated. The situation has not improved after the introduction of new police system either.
This petulant attitude of police officials towards the public dates back to colonial times, when the police were given excessive legal powers and lethal weapons to suppress the local population. In other words, the colonial police was a weapon in the hands of the colonialist power rather than provision of a public service.
No attempt was made to change the politicised mindset of the police bequeathed by the colonial rulers, at the outset of independence, and the constitution gave excessive powers to the police for controlling crime and maintaining public order. The police in Pakistan can stop a person and search, detain or arrest him on mere suspicion. Not only this but an SHO may keep an arrested person in police custody for twenty-four hours without magisterial authorisation.
In civilised societies the police exercise their authority judiciously and in a transparent manner under the gaze of vigilant media and efficient watchdog bodies. Also the basic awareness of human rights is created in early childhood. In Pakistan, however the Human Rights Training Program for the police has been launched only recently and this programme needs to be carried forward not only to the level of local police officials but also the citizens.
Various police commissions and committees appointed by the government from time to time have recommended reforms in the police service to make this crucial state organ relevant to the needs of a modern state. However, these recommendations could not work in the absence of a strong institutional framework. The new police law introduced in 2002 contains provisions for establishing independent forums like Public Safety Commissions, Police Complaints Authorities and Criminal Justice Cooperation Committees for making the police accountable to the taxpayers; however until the respect and awareness of human rights is not inculcated in citizens and the police officials, any change in thana culture is unlikely.
Nuclear proliferation and our future
Sir: Some would have us believe that our vows with respect to the nuclear proliferation are over. But it is not true. They have just begun. So what is next?
Well, we may be allowed to keep the ‘universal-bar coded’ bombs with digital locator devices attached to the ‘feet’ of every nuke, but the control buttons would surely move somewhere else.
It is unfortunate that all the indicators point to a catastrophic present and a bleak future. Any remedies?
Of course: we must start with ending the militarisation of our society; return the powers to the people; hold transparent general elections and establish true democracy in the country; grant autonomy to provinces with taxation powers and the ownership of all resources within their boundaries; ensure rule of law, independence of judiciary and sanctity of the Constitution; build a society according to the 11th August speech by the founder of the nation and enact law that should state in unequivocal terms that this country is a federation of four states ‘according to the Constitution’. We are at a point in our history where half hearted measures would do no good.
Chronology of worldwide proliferation
Sir: Pakistan is at the centre of the threat of nuclear proliferation, but it is important to keep in mind that Pakistan is certainly not the initiator of proliferation of nuclear weapons.
The chronology of proliferation is briefly mentioned as follows:
1. German scientists transferred the basic knowledge to the United States, when they immigrated to the US during the Nazi Era.
2. First proliferation occurred from the US to Israel, which possesses around 150 to 200 nuclear devices.
3. Israel transferred the knowledge and technology to South Africa.
4. The USSR proliferated it to China and India.
How it was proliferated to Iraq remains a question and in my opinion it is definitely not Pakistan. I would urge all Pakistani writers around the world to signify these facts and to rectify the history of proliferation.
PROF DR B J ZULQARNAIN
Success of a failed intelligence network
Sir: This refers to the two news reports published on February 09, 2004 on pages A11 of your daily under the caption “Armitage told Musharraf of Khan’s culpability” and “Bush praises US intelligence on AQ Khan”.
The former news mentions that the Americans had a tracker planted on Khan’s body and they knew much more about Dr Khan’s wealth than us. And the latter news mentions that Bush defended the US-led war in Iraq and said that he didn’t want to rush an inquiry into US pre-war intelligence, which suggested that Iraq had stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction.
It is quite obvious that the US intelligence network desperately failed to avert not only 9/11, but also in providing an accurate and updated information of WMD in Iraq. Ironically however, it was successful in penetrating Khan’s network and providing accurate information on Khan’s whereabouts.
DR QAISAR RASHID