Rights activists put forth charter on police reforms
Formulated in line with the Sindh High Court’s historic judgement regarding reforms in the provincial police force, civil society representatives on Friday released a charter comprising their respective suggestions.
The document was presented by, at a press conference held at the Karachi Press Club, by Nazim F Haji of the Citizens Trust Against Crimes and Karamat Ali of the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research.
Titled the ‘Citizens Charter for Police Reforms’, the document has been divided into two sets of demands, one each for common citizens and police personnel, will be submitted with provincial police chief.
As per SHC’s ruling, issued on September 7, Inspector General of Police Sindh AD Khowaja was asked to make necessary changes in the police department in accordance with the Police Act, 1861.
The charter demands that a Provincial Public Safety Commission is established, or an Ombudsman is appointed for the purpose, whereas the Human Rights Cell (established under Standing Order 235/2009) are activated in each district so that a monthly report, with especial focus on extra judicial killings and enforced disappearances, is issued. The activists called for appointing citizens (minimum five) as members of the cell.
Another demand included launching an online system to file complaints in which each complainant is issued a reference number to keep track of the progress made on the complaint.
Some of the other suggestions included in the charter were ensuring that all investigations are conducted in a transparent and efficient manner, whereas all Investigation Officers are given the allocated funds and are also being held accountable for them.
The demands also called for inducting women and members of minority communities, at all levels, as per the five per cent quota allocated to them under the law. A special unit was also called for being set up to monitor the progress of all cases relating to violence against women, children and minorities. Furthermore, the activists demanded that worship places of a minority should be guarded by a security officer of the same minority, as per the Supreme Court Judgment of Justice Tassaduq HussainJillani, regarding the safety of the Minorities’ Places of worship.
Every citizen arrested has a right to dignity and privacy under the constitution; conditions of lock ups, including sanitary services should be improved, the rights activists demanded. All assets owned by police officers, results of inquiries against them were urged to be posted on the police’s official website.
A set of recommendations was also prepared in light of measures to be taken to ensure welfare of the police personnel. Among the suggestions was putting up on the official website budgets assigned to each police station.
Issues regarding the Annual Confidential Report (ACR) were demanded to be addressed, as police officers take little or no interest in writing the ACRs of their subordinates; a delay in ACRs brings down the morale of police officers, the activists observed.
Retired police personnel and families of martyred policemen should be paid their dues on time, whereas living conditions of police personnel be made at par with officials of other government service departments.
The civil society representatives further suggested to bring working conditions of police personnel in conformity with Pakistan’s law and international standards. Dignity of police personnel and their families was also demanded to be respected, in that they should have access to education, healthcare as well as a decent living.
All police personnel injured should have access to the best healthcare as is available to armed forces, whereas regular medical check-ups of all police personnel were demanded to be conducted.
The activists also stressed on promoting the concept of community policing at police station level and that an SHO’s performance regarding the matter is made a part of his monthly ACR.
Besides, a police-citizens’ event to recognise outstanding police personnel was suggested to be held annually and that the event should be marked as an important function in the provincial social calendar.
Khateeb Ahmed from Shehri CBE, Liaqat Sahi from National Labour Council, Sheema Kermani of Tehrik Niswan and Sindh Commission on Status of Women Chairperson Nuzhat Shirin and NOW Communities Director Farhat Parveen were also present at the press conference.
Para 102 of the SHC decision states: “We would also like to emphasise that in this judgment we have touched upon only some aspects of the very many problems relating to policing, the police force and the law and order situation.
The reform of the police force, the revival of proper and effective policing, the regaining and restoration of law and order, and the enforcement of fundamental rights in the fullest sense is an on-going exercise and a work-in-progress.
The problems and issues are many, and may need to be treated again in fresh petitions and other proceedings. However, even if this judgment proves to be but one link in that chain, it is hopefully a step in the right direction (if we may mix metaphors a bit).”