Policing in 2021

Dr Syed Kaleem Imam
Friday, Jan 14, 2022

Last year (2021) saw several incidents that cannot be proudly remembered; they were primarily caused due to Covid-19 pandemic-induced economic fallouts, unprecedented price hikes and unemployment that led to poverty, rising crimes, religious extremism coupled with personal gain, and corruption creeping deep into the system.

Income inequality creates a sharp division between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’. The two groups somehow use this ‘inequality’ to justify their illegal conduct; the former indulges in such behaviour to satisfy its greed, and the latter does so to make ends meet. Our police did their best to maintain law and order, dealt with crimes, and resolved injustices with meagre resources. Sometimes they were successful – sometimes they were not. It is time we recognised that internal security is the responsibility of trained officials. The police force is an important department of the country’s overall law-enforcement system. It is a sub-schema of the criminal justice system and has the right to use reasonable force.

All major law and order incidents are usually handled by the police. In the case of the 9/11 attacks, the area’s local police were the first responders who managed the situation with help from other agencies. Undoubtedly, if the department isn’t performing well, it should be corrected. Policing is not easy; it requires courage, determination and dedication. Unfortunately, the force is being used as a colonial tool to subjugate people, with some police officers complicit in this.

Learning and unlearning is a model for progress. The current situation gives a ray of hope as the overall response from police organisations was positive in 2021. Around nine million crimes were reported. Ninety percent of the crimes were theft, fraud and injury. Some 20 percent of these cases were false or misreported. Between 70 and 80 percent of these cases were solved – cases traced, but court convictions were around 14 to 17 percent. The recovery of stolen property was just 23 percent, and the number of arrests made for wanted persons (nominated in FIRs) was around 57 percent.

In March 2021, Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) was jolted by an attack in Naltar where a passenger van was attacked, resulting in deaths and several injuries. But early detection kept other incidents at bay. The police’s pre-emptive action related to a ‘Mubahila’ saved the region from sectarian disputes. Digitalisation efforts in the region are impressive.

The Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) police performed tremendously when dealing with its first-ever cricket event – Kashmir Premier League (KPL) – and the 2021 general elections. The Kanwal Matloob rape and murder case in Mirpur was worrying. Similarly, two cases from Islamabad – the extrajudicial killing of Osama Satti and the Noor Mukadam murder case – were equally perturbing even though the culprits and the people complicit in these crimes were arrested promptly.

One of the major challenges that the KP police dealt with was the mainstreaming of the newly merged erstwhile Fata districts, and ensuring that Pakistan wasn’t negatively affected by the unrest in Afghanistan. Former Khasadar and Levies personnel were promoted in the shortest period, and police stations were made functional in the former tribal areas. Successful local elections were held to make the region’s administration flawless. One of the laudable initiatives of the KP police was introducing the Ababeel force to deal with urban crimes and terrorism and the Asaan Insaf Marakiz to change the problematic thana culture.

The Punjab police faced challenges from religious extremism, which was evident in the TLP situation that unfolded in recent months, but timely action of arresting vigilante groups was commendable. Its major success was the massive crackdown on the land mafia, which helped it reclaim private and state land worth billions of rupees.

With rising insurgency raging as well as religious extremism and terrorism, maintaining law and order in Balochistan was challenging. And since the province is divided into ‘A’ and ‘B’ areas, ‘policing’ remains a fractured phenomenon there. This needs to be sorted out. The police force took impressive action following the IED explosion at the Serena Hotel in Quetta and the killing of coal mine workers in Mach. The culprits were quickly traced. In September, the ringleader of Daesh Balochistan, Mumtaz Pehlwan, was killed.

The Sindh police remained largely affected by a lack of resources, but the initiation of a safe city project is promising. Street crimes in Karachi remained an issue. On the other hand, tribal enmity and honour killings kept the force on its toes in rural areas. One of its main accomplishments was the destruction of several sectarian groups.

The effforts of the Motorway Police reduced accidents by 37 percent despite an increase in traffic and expanded jurisdiction. The force’s recent initiatives where it has started using tech gadgets including drones and body cameras and launched public service management systems are appreciable. The non-implementation of axle load management and fine enhancement despite the passage of relevant laws remain a worrying point.

It is worth mentioning that a lack of human and logistical resources didn’t stop the FIA from handling over a hundred thousand cases of cybercrime. One of its highlights was the achievement of various FATF targets concerning money laundering and the recovery of billions in evacuee trust property matters. Its working became more efficient when it streamlined its operations by using case and complaint management software. However, the challenges that it faces are: being on the border and limited legal help.

Objectively speaking, 2021 was not much of a year to brag about. The resolution for 2022 should be to look back at the past and learn from our mistakes, ensuring that we do not repeat them. Can we rigorously pursue this year that ‘right is might’, ‘rule of law’, ‘imposition of due process’, ‘no administrative reliefs for delinquent be among our rank and file or even our blood’ and ‘affectionate healing hands for victims’?

Also, through reducing socioeconomic disparities, providing education and social security, creating self-sustaining jobs and offering financially viable programmes, the crime rate can be lowered. As a result of such non-kinetic measures, some developed countries have even converted jails into schools and colleges. In this manner, the forceful application of the police force to control wrongdoings is automatically restrained.

Over the past few years, safe cities projects around the world have used IT tools, tech gadgets, forensics, and ‘big data’ to create amazing results. A peaceful environment increases tourism, security, growth, economy and a decrease in crimes.

The writer is federal secretary at the Ministry of Narcotics Control. He tweets @KaleemImam and can be reached at: Facebook: @syedkaleemimam