October 2nd, 2020
By Haider Kaleem
In the context of the recent controversy generated by misogynist remarks of CCPO Lahore concerning the rape of women on the motorway and arbitrary transfers and posting of police officials, including IG and CCPO, in Punjab, HRCP in collaboration with the Indus Public Lawyers Front (IPLF), lawyers collective, organized a round-table conference in Lahore. It was attended by academics, lawyers, former IGs, women rights activists, representatives of political parties, and other stakeholders equipped with the relevant expertise to discuss the broader issue of the politicization of the police and the lack of implementation of the Police Order 2002.
The speakers stressed that the main purposes of the Police Order is to depoliticize and democratize the police force by establishing accountability mechanisms, public safety commissions, and the security of tenure of the Heads of the Police to minimize the arbitrary influence of the political executive.
Vice-Chairman of Pakistan bar Council Abid Saqi pointed out that our criminal law and policing, especially the structure and methods of policing, are embodiments of the colonial state’s logic maintaining control over the population. He regretted that the police have not changed much since 1861. PML (N)’s MPA Malik Muhammad Ahmad Khan shared the reasons and contents of the petition that he has filed in Lahore High Court against arbitrary removal and transfer of officers in Punjab, particularly CCPO Lahore, operationalization of accountability mechanisms. He emphasized on democratic accountability of the Police through Public Safety Commission and through the strengthening of Parliamentary committees. former IG G-B and Director FIA, Tahseen Shah, also shared his experiences and difficulties faced by the police due to political interventions in its function. He emphasized the need to depoliticize the police and regretted that the present CCPO was appointed without the consultation of the IG Punjab.
Prominent women rights activist Hina Jillani pointed out the disproportionate adverse burden that the present policing regime puts on women. Moderator of the seminar and President of Public Lawyers Front Usama Khawar Ghumman pointed out that one of the key progressive aspects of the Police Order 2002 -the establishment of institutions of accountability, e.g., public safety commissions, which are required to give one-third representation to women and hold the police accountable – has not been operationalized.
Similarly, representatives of media, civil society, young women who have at the forefront of organizing protests against gender-based discrimination by the Police, representatives of Human Rights Watch, Saroop Ijaz, and AGHS’ also spoke on the occasion demanded immediate reforms in the police to protect the fundamental rights of the citizens.