Public safety by Ikram Sehgal

magics

Voter (50+ posts)


Having obtained consensus from all the political parties for a dialogue with those terrorists who are misusing religion as a platform, the Sharif government turned its attention to the militant-infested important city of Karachi.


Law and order being a provincial subject, the federal government cannot deal directly with the problem without sending the provincial government packing. Despite the obvious and glaring deficiencies in good governance in Sindh this can compromise what passes by the name of democracy in a coup-prone country like Pakistan. They have opted instead to encourage and support the provincial government in doing its constitutional duty in hunting down target killers and other criminals. With many of them members of the ruling party, this will take some doing.

The constant drumbeat was that the Civil Armed Forces (CAF) in the form of the Rangers and the local Sindh police were rendered powerless because of the existing laws. The PML-Ns Zahid Hamid was commissioned to make the LEAs effective by giving them additional powers, duplicating those given to the army when operating under Article 245 of the constitution. In short, give the LEAs all the trappings of Article 245 without having the army to enforce Article 245.

Zahid Hamid consulted a whole range of legal counsel, both in Karachi and the rest of the country, before coming up with the amendments to the existing laws that give the LEAs powers far beyond their normal mandate and are time-limited so as not to be misused in the future. The LEAs carry an unsavoury reputation on exercising restraint. Any misuse of such powers will seriously endanger safety of the citizens. Without oversight ensuring public safety during the operations by an effective check and balance mechanism, the long suffering public that already remain at the mercy of the militants, could also become legally hostage to the LEAs. Call it the Public Safety Commission (PSC).

The PSC will essentially function as an independent forum for citizens seeking administrative relief against the misuse of draconian powers under the garb of operations against terrorists and/or criminals, to ensure transparency and accountability in arrests and/or investigation of cases and to monitor (i) time-bound measurable performances through extortion, bhatta and/or land grabbing, target killing and kidnapping for ransom, sectarian atrocities, recovery of bombs, explosives and weapons; (ii) providing benchmarks for detection, investigation and disposal of cases through policy recommendations; and (iii) eliminating fraud and chancery at polling booths during elections.

The PSC should comprise five members, with one member nominated as chairman. The PSC Secretariat be established immediately and headed by a secretary with requisite infrastructure and budgetary support by the provincial government, preferably located in a suitable government building.

The members of the PSC should be citizens of Pakistan of impeccable integrity, be income tax assessed and of proven professional competence in such fields as social work, law, administration, education, corporate sector, government (preferably law enforcement).

They must not be activists of any political party, hold any representative office or have been public servants in the six months immediately preceding such appointment, suffer from physical or mental incapacity or illness, have been declared bankrupt, loan defaulters or tax evaders, held an office of profit in the service of any entity controlled by the government or controlling share or interest, been dismissed, removed or compulsorily retired from the service of Pakistan on grounds of corruption or any other form of misconduct, convicted of a criminal offence; or involved in activities prejudicial to the ideology and integrity of Pakistan, its people and society as such.

Board members should serve a minimum of two years, extendable on a yearly basis. They cannot be removed except if they resigns or are disqualified for any misconduct, which is to be decided by the majority of the remaining members of the board collectively.

The functions of the PSC should be to (a) probe into any complaint of illegal detention or abuse of authority by any member of the LEAs; (b) provide relief to victims of misuse of powers by LEAs and victims of crime and/or terrorism ;(c) recommend compensation thereof; (d) make recommendations to the government for improvement of law and order and reduction in crime; (e) facilitate real-time and effective coordination among the LEAs; (f) recommend law reforms procedural reforms relating to the police, prosecution, prisons and probation services; (g) submit an annual report to the federal government that shall include its own performance during the year and a report on matters concerning general law and order in the province or any other point considered relevant to the PSC or referred to the it by the government.

As for the conduct of business, the PSC shall notify rules for conduct of business with a minimum of three members and may probe any case either filed before it or at its own or on a reference from the government and/or any LEA. The PSC may publish its report and recommendations as per rules. The provincial government shall depute and/or appoint such officers as recommended by the PSC to assist in the smooth functioning and operations of the PSC Secretariat and to monitor implementation of its decisions.

The powers of the PSC should include earmarking cases of public importance and seeking report of investigation from the inquiry officer or supervisory officer before the submission of report under Section 173 of CrPC to the cour. The PSC, for all legal and operational matters, would exercise powers equivalent to the provincial ombudsman. The decisions of the members of the PSC will always be construed to have been taken or done in good faith, in the best public interest and not be called into question by any court of law.

The president on his own volition, or the recommendation of the federal interior minister, may remove a PSC member from office if he or she (a) ceases to be a Pakistani citizen; (b) suffers from physical or mental incapacity or illness; (c) is guilty of misconduct; (d) on the basis of conflict of interest; (e) is convicted of a criminal offence; (f) is declared bankrupt, or a loan and tax defaulter; (g) is involved in activities prejudicial to the ideology, interest, security and integrity of Pakistan, its people and society; (h) brings the PSC into disrepute; and (j) fails to attend three consecutive regular meetings without any reasonable cause.

There must be a legal basis for ensuring the safety and security of the citizens of the country because of the specially-crafted laws that give the LEAs draconian powers. To prevent superior courts being clogged with cases of human rights abuse, it is imperative to have a duly legislated overnight mechanism in the form of a PSC.

(With acknowledgment and profound gratitude for the contribution by Jameel Yousuf, prominent businessman and former chairman, CPLC).

The writer is a defence and political analyst. Email: [email protected]


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magics

Voter (50+ posts)
The enemy within by I.A. REHMAN

FEW incidents of terrorism have caused such large-scale outpouring of grief, anger and shame as the massacre in the Peshawar church last Sunday. But will this outrage awaken the Pakistani people to the urgency of dealing with the cancerous growth in their body politic of which the attack on the old church was only a symptom?

As has often happened in such situations, various parties are busy denying responsibility for mass murder in the church. The Taliban say they are not involved and they do not believe in killing innocent people.

The Muslim ulema argue that no true Muslim can commit such horrible excesses. For one thing, the people know better. And for another, considerable confusion has been created by those who own their black deeds and those who always deny them. If these denials are taken seriously even the most efficient detectives might fail to track down the culprits. In any case the search is unnecessary as the list of suspects is quite short.


First, it is impossible to completely delink the Peshawar incident from the ongoing debate on parleys with the militants besieging the state of Pakistan. Apart from the many unarmed citizens who oppose talks with the militants on the latter’s terms, there are elements in Pakistan, many of them occupying key positions in the country’s politico-religious parties, that would wish the position of the government of Pakistan to be weakened further so that the challengers’ ideological victory can be guaranteed.

At the same time, there may be elements in the militants’ ranks who would like to delay the talks with Islamabad till its surrender becomes irreversible. Then, the possibility of factional tussle within the pro-negotiation camps on both sides cannot be ruled out. Who should have the decisive voice in the negotiating teams on either side and who should be recognised as the best interlocutors on the other side are issues that can cause serious conflicts. Such wrangling could torpedo the talks altogether.

Any of the elements identified could have launched the assault on the church. Secondly, there is reason to suspect the sectarian terrorists who have been targeting both non-Muslim communities and minority Muslim sects for quite some time and who seem determined to convert the entire population to their exclusivist creed.

Some of these elements have been on the security forces’ radar for a pretty long time and the latter’s disinclination to proceed against them is one of Pakistan’s most painful enigmas. Both the militants operating in the northern parts and the sectarian terrorists operating practically throughout the country derive strength from the theocratic assumptions with which the original ideals of Pakistan are being replaced.

Their shared objective is to pull down the state’s democratic structure, its judicial order, its education system and install in their place devices and values of their own choice. There should be no mistake about the identity and objectives of these elements — they are not fighting the state of Pakistan for any of their rights, they want to usurp the right of the entire people of Pakistan to choose their institutions of governance through democratic means.

More dangerous than terrorist attacks is the systematic exploitation of the people’s religious sentiments for instigating violence and hatred against the minorities. The militants have been using the religious card with considerable skill. The result is the creation of an environment that is becoming increasingly hostile to the religious minorities and smaller Muslim sects.


Everybody knows of the migration of hard-pressed non-Muslim Pakistanis from Balochistan and the Sindhi non-Muslims’ grievances regarding abduction and forced conversion of their girls, and kidnappings for ransom. In Punjab, especially Lahore, new groups of professional Ahmadi-baiters have emerged over the past few months. They are instituting all kinds of cases against the Ahmadis, encouraging land grabbers to seize their property and pushing policemen to demolish structures resembling minarets at Ahmadi prayer houses.

The number of Ahmadi victims of targeted killing is on the rise. Some loose talk in a TV show is enough to petrify the powerful Punjab government and persuade it to malign and strangulate a widely respected school for including a book on comparative religion in its courses.

The main source of strength for both categories of the anti-state bands is their (and their political patrons’) success in presenting themselves as soldiers of Islam. The people have been divided between those who are fighting alongside the US-Nato forces and those who are defending Islam. Maulana Sherani who heads the Council of Islamic Ideology has just proclaimed that those who support Nato may go on (unsuccessfully) fighting the Taliban.

What he means is that anyone who opposes the killers of Pakistani soldiers and generals and the organisers of suicide bombing missions is a stooge of Nato. It is this pernicious stereotyping of the militants/terrorists and the defenders of the Pakistani citizens’ right to democratic governance and rule of law that paralyses the custodians of power in Islamabad. They may have recognised the seriousness of the threat militant extremists pose to them but they are yet to draw up a strategy to counter religious militancy and abuse of the Islamic concept of jihad.

The all-party conference that was staged in Islamabad did not even scratch the core issue — the use of religious slogans to justify murder of Muslims and non-Muslim alike and to spare neither mosques nor churches. What the government must realise is that every concession they offer the militants will worsen the plight of the religious minorities, with women and democratic-minded citizens not far behind them. Pakistan will never be able to protect its integrity and defend its citizens’ lives and properties unless it begins to tame the monster of intolerance it has so thoughtlessly reared.


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