PESHAWAR: Damages to underground internet cables during digging for the Rapid Bus Transport project have disturbed Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) police which is facing difficulties to register complaints online and provide data to complainants. The interruption has hit Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf’s (PTI) flagship program under which the party very proudly introduced police reforms.
Many complainants have recently faced problems after disruption occurred in the online FIR registration process as the police failed to provide any data citing internet downing. The police sources said that the Complaint Management System has been disturbed due to the poor internet as Peshawar Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project has dismantled the internet cables for construction work.
Denying persisting disruptions in the online FIR system, KP police Director public relation Waqar Khan told Apni Awaz that online FIR system was up and running with people lodging their concerns including FIRs online without any hiccup. Though, he acknowledged interruptions in the online registration of FIRs, saying,
“the system is disrupted but our team is actively working on it to resolve the related issue within time.”
Currently, police are having difficulty in receiving online FIR’s nor it can generate data reports from the system, informed a well-placed police official, requesting anonymity. Even before the recent technical glitch surfaced, a majority of citizens continued to lodge FIRs in person, which is seen by the critics as a failure of the reforms initiated by the provincial govt. Jan Afzal, a senior Peshawar based journalist, says,
“Despite occasional problems and lack of awareness among masses, the online registration of FIRs was a great initiative but it has come under stress causing inconvenience to many affected citizens.”
PTI government in KPK promulgated police act in 2016 heralding a new era for police free of political interference, free of corruption and making the community-policing top on the agenda at least on the papers. “When they are interacting with us, they behave very badly and annoy us for no reason,” complains a taxi driver Zeeshan from Peshawar city, adding that,
“For us police of KP remain the old one, and we have not seen any visible change in the whole system, maybe it’s noticeable to you educated people.”
Despite growing criticism, some point out to the ongoing improvement in the service and community policing of KP police as Shafaq, a local resident of Peshawar narrated his personal good experience with the police after losing his mobile phone, saying, “Police treated me nicely and helped me by recovering my lost cell phone.”
The police reform initiative was widely hailed in the country as a landmark achievement and the provincial PTI led government projected it as its major success and a model for other provinces.
However, an investigation conducted by Apni Awaz revealed that the police system itself has many deficiencies and only low-ranking officials are penalized for their faults whereas the senior officials rarely get the punishment for abusing their power. Those among the seniors who were suspended or even terminated for crossing the line got themselves restored through court’s orders projecting it as a proof of their innocence.
The police source informed Apni Awaz that more than one thousand police cops were dismissed from their duties, and around seven thousand were charged with punishment on alleged corruption and misusing their power or authority against local citizens. Most of them were accused of supporting smugglers and criminals in last four years in KP. It’s worth noting that the govt. officers enjoy a job security and protection under service rules and regulations, making it nearly impossible for the govt. to fire someone even on the genuine ground.
To check rising corruption and misusing the power authority in the police, the KP government had introduced complaint management system called “Directorate of Police Complaint and Internal Accountability” against police officers involved in any misuse of powers with the aim to restore public trust on police. But critics say the new mechanism for police accountability is failing due to service protection rules and regulations and court’s restoration orders.
Bashir Daad, deputy superintendent (DSP) told Apni Awaz, “I was alleged for financial corruption but I was declared innocent and the case was filed against the person who hurled false accusations against me, bringing disrepute and disgrace to my service, ” adding that those officers who are found guilty must be punished severely.
Another officer of SP rank, who did not want to disclose his name, told that he was charged with criminal activities, involving the attestation of a property occupation.
“The tribunal verdict declared me as guilty of malpractices and recommended for early retirement but I challenged it in the High Court, which cleared me declaring me innocent,”
the officer narrated his experience of termination from the service following allegations and the final restoration by the court.
Some officers also criticize the snail pace of Tribunal proceedings as the concerned officer remained out of service for almost a year, bringing a bad name to him and his family. “I got myself restored but there is irreparable damage to my service and image,” he complained.
In 2017 a total number of around 12 thousand policemen were punished for illegal use of powers and involvement in criminal activities including 140 police officers were terminated from their positions for alleged excesses and violation of the conduct.
Our investigations show that most of the senior-ranked officers including Banaras Khan, Rahim Hussain, Tajamul Khan, Samad Khan got themselves restored by the court orders against the Tribunal’s termination decision.
A further detailed investigation found that most of the involved officers in crimes are from the junior rank personnel lower than 17-grade officers who are usually in the field directly dealing with citizens for their concerns.
Explaining the reason behind awarding punishment to junior personnel, Tahir Khan, Police Chief of Peshawar said, “Around 9 percent of police officers belong to upper ranks and 1 percent belong to low ranks and around 92 percent are constables performing their duties in field directly in touch with local citizens, that’s why the majority of constable are involved in crimes activity like misusing their power authority.”
Many critics like the senior journalist Jan Afzal believe the benefits of the police reforms could not trickle down as the police personnel was not trained in line with the new reform initiative,
“Earlier Muharrar was not as much qualified but now they are graduates and trained.”
Lack of check and balance or accountability mechanism is seen as a major stumbling block in the way of landmark reforms initiative taken by the PTI led government. “In 8 out of 10 cases, the concerned police officer is likely to win restoration no matter how serious their involvement would be,” elaborated Afzal.
Edited by Hasan Khan