According to media reports, the entire staff of Banigala police station, except the station house officer, has been removed. The action was reportedly taken on the complaint of Prime Minister Imran Khan. Two separate notifications were issued from the office of the senior superintendent of police in this regard. Over a dozen subordinates (constables and head constable), three sub-inspectors and three assistant sub-inspectors were removed.
A police officer told daily Dawn that there had been several complaints against the staff of the police station that they were patronising land grabbers and drug dealers, and also minting money from vehicles transporting construction material.
A few days ago, newly appointed IGP Qazi Jamilur Rehman met the prime minister. PM Khan had informed the IGP that the staff of the police station had extorted money from a truck driver, the police official said, adding that the truck driver was traced and called to identify the staff of the police station.
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However, the truck driver made excuses that he might not be able to identify those who extorted money from him, the police official said, adding that the next day the IGP issued orders to remove the staff of the police station.
In Sept 2019, Banigala and three other police stations were declared Model Subdivision, the officer said, adding that the step was taken after the prime minister approved introduction of reforms at the police station level with assistant superintendents of police to work as station house officer for effective administration.
When contacted, Director Media Islamabad Police SP Mohammad Bilal confirmed that the staff of Banigala police station had been removed as there were many complaints against them.
When asked about the meeting between the IGP and the prime minister, the SP said: “I have no knowledge about it; I will get details and reply.”
Reforming Police: A Question of Political Will?
Syeda Aminah Gilani, a Lahore-based academic and political commentator, believes that the police may not be reformed until the overall socio-cultural discourses are improved. “Whether PTI government is,” points out Ms. Gilani, “sincere in reforming the Police culture is a questionable question itself, because the Police is not a department working in isolation, it is part of the greater political and state structure where the evil practices have existed, lingered and now seem to have become an inevitable part of the political system”. She adds “unless the socio-political mindset doesn’t start changing one cannot expect Police to become an ideal department on its own, as it is part of the whole”.
While commenting on the capacity of the police department she laments that no reform packages have ever been implemented in its true spirit. She maintains that “the capacity building of Police has been recognized by previous governments and was placed on list of their agenda, the National Action Plan, National Internal Security Policy, NACTA act have included the crucial and significant role of Police department in country’s fight against violent extremism, however, and only a practical implementation stays missing.
Police is at the center in the achievement of good governance practices, with the promulgation of Police Order 2002, Police was expected to move out of its decades-old “thana culture” which has long paved way for causing distrust and dislike between the public and Police. Though the Police department in Pakistan has laid several lives in the line of duty, their sacrifices remain overshadowed by acts of utter inhumanity and immorality with the conduct of extrajudicial killings and torture on the pretext of political orders or otherwise”.
Ms. Gilani further believes that one more important “aspect which deserves to be taken into consideration is the selection and training criteria, which needs to be revisited for the personnel falling in the lower hierarchy of the police department as it is those Police individuals who are expected to make most interactions with public and as witnessed it is them who cause most dishonor to this crucial state institution”.
Abdul Sattar, columnist, and journalist, recently noted that “Let us begin with the independence of the police department and the current ruling elite’s claim to put an end to political influence. Soon after the government came into power, the DPO of Pakpattan was transferred – some say for merely doing his duty – something that shocked many admirers of Khan. The ex-IG of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Nasir Durrani, who was tasked to carry out reforms in the Punjab police, resigned after what critics said was interference by politicians. This further fueled suspicions about the claims made by the new government, and later developments seemed to have vindicated them.
Sources claim that the project of de-politicization of police in Punjab became even difficult because of the attitude of the local leadership who believes without accommodative police in the province, it is not possible to ensure the functioning of the government. In initial meetings with members of the provincial assembly, the Prime Minister was also informed that Punjab has different political dynamics and cultural background as compared to KP.