KPK Police Act, 2017

Written by Arham Zahra 6:29 pm Articles, Current Affairs, Pakistan, Published Content

From Legislation to Implementation: Evaluating the KPK Police Act, 2017

In 2017, the KPK Police Act was introduced as a step towards reforming the institute. The act was further amended in 2021; however, its effectiveness remains in question. Though additional reforms have also been introduced within the KPK Police, Arham Zahra analyzes the 2017 Act and addresses the challenges in its implementation.
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Arham Zahra is a graduate student of English literature, with a minor in political science, from Kinnaird College. Her interests include history, writing, philosophy, and sociology. She can be contacted at [email protected].

The KPK Police Act, 2017

The police force of Pakistan suffers from a notorious reputation of corruption, inefficiency, abuse, and an unhelpful attitude towards the common people. Consequently, it has been clear to authorities that serious systemic change in the institution is required to improve discipline and ensure the safety of the people. Yet, significant reforms for the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) Police have been few and far between. From 2002–2013, priority was given to countering terrorism and insurgency in the province, which was considerably effective in bringing peace and order back to the land. This newfound stability created the opportunity for the KPK Police Act, 2017 to suggest measures for the improvement of the police administration according to international and modern standards.

One of the most important features of the KPK Police Act was the centralization of the powers of the inspector general. This reform was lauded for separating the investigation division of the police department from those responsible for patrolling to increase efficiency in dealing with cases and keeping accurate records. The inspector general was given sole authority and autonomy in administrative, financial, and operational decisions of the police in KPK. However, the inspector general does not have the authority to appoint or transfer his subordinates, even though he is the one working and assessing them. While this decision increased the efficiency of the police force, the centralization of power also increased the chances of political influence and nepotism.

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Despite the intentions of the act to make the institution apolitical, those in positions of power in the bureaucracy and elected officials retained the authority to influence recruitment, transfers, compensation, and investigation within the police force. Thus, the KPK Police remained a tool to propagate political agendas rather than protect civil discipline. To counter this, the 2017 Act included the establishment of a public safety commission. It was to include officials of the National Assembly and the opposition to hold the police accountable. However, the commission never came into being and was then completely amended out of the legislation after four unproductive years.

Discussions regarding the improvement of KPK police training were also part of the Police Act, 2017. The training and examination are outsourced to an independent academy, the Educational Testing and Evaluation Agency (ETEA). Furthermore, the help of the Armed Forces has been acquired to deal efficiently with the large number of trainees. These changes were designed to prioritize the merit and quality of police officers. Notoriously, police officers are often hired for their affiliations rather than their ability to maintain civil discipline.

The act also listed stricter criteria for police physical fitness and training in public dealings to make the institution more capable, accessible, and trustworthy. However, there has not been any significant improvement in police accessibility, attitude, or infrastructure. Out of the many suggestions listed in the act, the most effective reform towards accessibility was the digitization of information. Cases, complaints, and criminal records are now recorded digitally and across police stations to ensure speedy communication of details and help resolve cases with increased efficiency.

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The use of geo-tagging also alerts relevant police stations to disturbances in their area. Officers can access this information through their phones from any location, which removes the need for cumbersome paperwork and improves communication within the force. Furthermore, an e-ticketing system and digital driving licenses have also been established to improve accessibility for the public. It is difficult to ascertain whether sensitive information will remain secure on the internet, however, in this age, where the internet is more accessible than offices, digitization is a step in the right direction.

Amendments to the KPK Police Act

In 2021, the KPK Police Act was amended to introduce the Inspectorate instead. The Inspectorate is composed of retired civil officers and the director general of police to hold the senior police officers accountable, rather than elected members of the National Assembly. This reform significantly reduced the administrative power and autonomy of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Police, which had been granted four years prior.

Allegedly, this thorough reform was important as a reaction to an incident where a student committed suicide while in custody. The KPK Police was praised for its major improvement and efficiency after 2017, but this incident revealed that the implementation of reforms regarding transparency and accessibility of the police mostly existed on paper and was used for political propaganda. The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Police faced a large number of resignations and voluntary transfers in protest of the Inspectorate’s establishment and overall disempowerment.

As representatives of the people, elected officials do not benefit from systemic corruption and can keep civil servants in check as part of an accountability commission. However, elected officials in Pakistan often make decisions for political gain rather than according to the law. Their positions are arbitrary due to the country’s political instability, and they do not possess the necessary qualifications or experience in civil administration. A committee of retired officers would have the relevant experience and knowledge to take accountability as part of the Inspectorate. Nonetheless, this may lead to nepotism and corruption within the system. There is also a gaping lack of channels for civilian feedback in this version of the accountability commission.

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Additional Reforms

Other salient Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Police reforms aimed to increase the number of female police officers, who constitute only one percent of the entire force. Services such as Police Assistance Lines (PAL) and Police Access Service (PAS) included the establishment of accessible channels for reports concerning theft, lost items, extortion, kidnapping, lost and found, and rental information.

Easier channels were to be established for CNIC, security clearance, and character and vehicle clearance certificates. Separate desks for minorities such as women, children, and the elderly were to be established to make police stations more approachable for the general public and increase the efficiency of work. Measures were written to allow easier accessibility to authentic information regarding legal advice and document attestation.

Conclusion

The most significant problem faced by the KPK Police is the one faced by the entire country. Legislation on paper is not effectively implemented because of political pressure, inefficient training, and a lack of resources and communication. It is also difficult for any system of reforms to make a difference if it is not given time to take root. The political instability of the country always leads to rapid and intense changes in organizations, which is overwhelming and cannot bring any sustainable improvement. Nonetheless, despite the setbacks and unsuitable conditions, numerous police officers in KPK work tirelessly and voluntarily to maintain civil harmony. Proper compensation, accountability, and stability in the police force are necessary to increase efficiency and gradually remove the horrible stigma that surrounds the law enforcers of the country.


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