Start funding the police the way the army is funded and you will see a change!

Published: June 19, 2016
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The police are always compared to one of the strongest institutions of Pakistan: the Pakistan Army.

Corrupt, immoral, ill-mannered, undisciplined and mostly ‘chillar’– these words strike people’s minds while thinking of the civilian government’s prime law enforcement agency: the police. Even I had such an impression, although not as vile, of the police, owing to my encounters, interactions and dealings with the paramilitary force. But, after joining it, I have seen another side of the coin that remains hidden from the limelight of the masses’ eyes.

Each kind of image or character building, whether flaunting or humiliating, takes time to build. The successive years of deep politicisation, improper institutional training, out-dated infrastructure and above all, a lack of funds coupled with an inappropriate budget have fetched ignominy to this institution.

Constables do behave harshly, investigation officers do bag money from people, and some do demand ‘kharcha pani’ (expenditure) for rendered services, but they do not represent the entire force. There are tons of officers and subordinates who don’t completely mould into the popular definition of the police department.

How can a police station operate on 10 litres of daily fuel that it is allotted to them, especially when it has multiple villages under its watch, some that are many kilometres apart? Furthermore, how will the police produce criminals in court and collect evidence against them within such limited means?

How can a police officer with a moderate salary pursue any investigation diligently when he/she has to pay money from his/her own pocket for FIR copies, criminal’s medical certificates and other proceedings because they are inadequately funded by the government? These individuals collectively bargain the pathetic condition of the police department and not only does it solicit the miseries of corruption, it also fuels their harsh behaviour.

The police are always compared to one of the strongest institutions of Pakistan: the Pakistan Army. For me, the comparison is abjectly based on non-conformity. The army is bestowed with foreign military aid, the biggest share of the country’s annual defence budget and a firm ground on the country’s policymaking for decades.

We have witnessed how the country’s primary defence force of borders has transformed its image through public relations and mass appeasing in the media. How wonderfully it has turned the tables from being subjected to trial for years of flawed policies that cost the country a great deal of money and human resources, to the champions of war on terror. This legacy has been a part of the institutional image building since the separation of East Pakistan; this was the time when the army was deeply humiliated and renounced by the people for its role in secession of the eastern wing of the country. It led to the creation of the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) – a media wing of armed forces intended to bridge the gap between the public and the army, to siphon off the positive image of the army and concealing its faults.

In the 80s and 90s, the grim media campaign of the ISPR produced several television dramas that flaunted and glorified the army, while on the other hand termed the civil institutions as corrupt, immoral and unpatriotic. The hits include Alpha Bravo Charlie, Shahpar, Andhera Ujala etc. And this image building has not halted till date; every day we witness how communication via Twitter has glorified the current Army Chief, General Raheel Sharif as the sole saviour of this country.

The story doesn’t end here. The army, apart from its professional tasks runs businesses alone, as well as in partnerships with the private sector. Despite all the impairments of small budgets, funds and political pressures, the police continue to struggle hard in keeping up with serving the people, fighting criminals and laying their lives in the line of duty.

A recent incident that embodies the woes and shortcomings of the police is the Chotu gang operation. The small contingent of police that marched on to the riverine area was not even wearing bulletproof jackets. To make matters worse, their arms were less up to date than the dacoits. But still, they resorted towards their undoubtedly suicide mission.

On the other hand, the army brought gunship helicopters, heavy armoured vehicles, tanks and all the modern weaponry to fight the small gang of roughly 200 muggers and heisters. If the police had access to all these facilities, there wouldn’t have been any need for the army to come in. The police have the onus of maintaining law and order, win people’s confidence by rendering transparent and upright services with moral conduct.

The recent campaigns of revamping the police by provincial governments are laudable steps to rejuvenate the system and abolishing the loathed thanna (prison) culture. But all this will be of no use if governments do not allocate proper budgets and the police do not conform to the latest revamping campaigns. If this continues, the woes of this department will persist because the police have no access to foreign aid, nor does it have a public relations department for image building or a 111 brigade to get a say in policymaking.

Saleem Akram

Saleem Akram

The author is a public servant in the Punjab Government, a researcher and a music lover. He tweets @SaleemAkram1 twitter.com/SaleemAkram1

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