AFTER Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is the second province to have conducted local bodies polls. An effective district government requires a strong law-enforcement apparatus, even more so given the current challenges of governance. In Pakistan, however, policing is a shared domain between the provinces and the centre, to the exclusion of local governments.
The FIA, Frontier Constabulary, Frontier Corps, Anti Narcotics Force, Railways Police, Motorway Police and Coast Guard are federal bodies while the four provincial police departments work under their respective provincial governments.
From 1858 to 1935, provincial government was local government. Although as per the Government of India Act of 1935, a number of provincial departments were to be abolished and district and town councils strengthened instead, that provision was ignored and provincial governments continued to perform local government functions.
Local governments need local police services to perform effectively.
Post Partition, Ayub Khan introduced union and tehsil councils that further undermined district and town councils. In 2001, similar to what had transpired in 1935, upon the introduction of district governments in Pakistan, neither were the identified provincial departments abolished nor were local police units created.
While Article 32 of the Constitution incorporates the phrase “encouragement regarding local bodies”, the insertion of Article 140 upped the ante. It reads: “Each province shall, by law, establish a local government system and devolve political, administrative and financial responsibility and authority to the elected representatives of the local governments.”
The world over, local government, with its representative character and community support, has the most potential for success. It increases local communities’ input in governance, and empowers them to participate in a solution-oriented process.
However, truly effective local government is not possible without enforcement units of municipal bodies and local police services. Although their powers are quite limited, these forces supplement the working of big police organisations. When communities elect local police chiefs on the basis of performance, it instils a sense of ownership as well as accountability.
Such localised police forces improve public safety standards. They can be entrusted with vetting and registering residents, improving community relations, policing educational campuses, parks and housing societies.
In the post 9/11 security environment, provincial police in Pakistan is engaged in either guarding VIPs or vulnerable establishments or combating terrorism. Policing for the benefit of common folk has declined sharply. Gone are the days when detective foot constables collected information and foot patrolling was the popular mode of interacting with the public.
Our policing model is reactive in practice. In a proactive, preventive and educational role — that is missing — local police units can enhance community awareness, and in the process re-establish links with the communities they serve. Local police is also instrumental in fostering volunteerism.
To strengthen the state’s writ, policing functions should devolve to the union council level, where they must have clearly defined functions. Aside from investigation, local police should handle the security of vulnerable establishments, and perform preventive and traffic functions. Community policing should be the exclusive domain of the local police. A defined percentage of the provincial budget for law-enforcement should be allocated for local police departments.
District governments were introduced in Pakistan through the Local Government Ordinance of Aug 14, 2001. After local bodies elections were held in KP in 2002, some of the district governments allocated more resources for police in terms of finances and equipment, which improved the force’s response and mobility.
In some districts however, the new set-up had a bumpy ride where differences cropped up between the superintendents of police and district nazims.
Such differences surfaced primarily because the nazims were trained as political workers and in some areas began to interfere in the police’s internal operational matters. Although Article 33 of Police Order 2002 explicitly states that district nazims have nothing to do with internal administration and investigation, a majority of them behaved as complainants, in effect forgetting they were part of government.
To reap the dividends of local governance, amendments in the local government acts in Balochistan and KP as well as the police laws in both provinces are inevitable. Such amendments will provide the framework for raising small local police units who should be accountable to public safety commissions and independent complaint authorities.
LG and policing Mohammad Ali Babakhel
The writer is a police officer.
Published in Dawn, July 12th, 2015