Lack of interest by Khyber Pakhtunhwa’s police department and the bureaucracy continues to deprive citizens of independent forums where they can file complaints against poor performance of police officials.
The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Police Act 2017, which gives complete financial, administrative and operational autonomy to the police department, mandates formation of oversight bodies to check misuse of powers by the police. It seems to provide citizens platforms for filling complaints against police officials. The bodies have not been set up, despite passing of two years since the law came into effect.
The KP Police Act 2017 seeks the establishment of Provincial Public Safety Commission, District Public Safety Commission and Regional Police Complaint Authorities to keep checks on the performance and excesses of the police. These bodies were to address complaints and grievances of the public.
Two years have passed since the law came into effect but the government could only establish public safety commissions in 12 districts. Regional complaint authorities, the capital city public safety commission, the provincial public safety commission and public safety commissions in the remaining districts are yet to be formed.
Section 57 of the law was challenged in the Peshawar High Court last year in March
Some officials in the KP government told The Friday Times that addressing the shortage of public safety commissions was not a priority for the police department and the bureaucracy. “This lack of interest is unfortunate as the authorities are violating public rights by not providing the commissions as mandated by law,” said an official of the KP government dealing with these matters.
“Police secured immense powers under the law but they don’t care about the oversight mechanism outlined in it. Other people in the bureaucracy are also not interested in the subject and the people are forced to file their complaints against policemen to the police department itself,” the official said. He said that in the presence of public safety commissions, a complaint by a citizen was interrogated and followed up by independent safety commissions comprising of members from the general public.
The reasons behind the delay in the establishment of the commissions and complaint authorities exist in a few shortcomings in the law itself. These are to be addressed through amendments. Yet, no one has brought forward any proposed amendments to the parliament.
According to Section 57 of the law, there should be a scrutiny committee comprising of the chief justice of Peshawar High Court, chief commissioner of the KP Ehtesab Commission and the Public Service Commission chairman for the selection of independent members of provincial public safety commission. Similarly, for the selection of independent members of the capital public safety commission, the scrutiny committee shall include a judge of the Peshawar High Court as its chairman along with district nazim, a grade-21 civil servant and a non-government member but nominated by the government. For the selection of independent members of the district public safety commissions, the scrutiny committee shall include a district and sessions judge as its chairperson while the district nazim, a grade-20 civil servant and a non-government person.
Section 57 of the Police Act 2017 was challenged in the Peshawar High Court last year in March by a lawyer. He argued that the section and its sub-clauses were against the Constitution of Pakistan since they give executive powers to the judiciary. Its clauses, he said, were against the separation of judiciary and executive. The lawyer asked the court to strike down the section and the case is still being heard by the court.
Officials dealing the issue said the KP government had revoked the KP Ehtesab Commission and so the chief commissioner, who was a member in the scrutiny committee for the provincial safety commission and the regional complaint authorities, does not exist anymore. “Amendments in the act are mandatory for the completion of the scrutiny committee to select independent members of commissions and complaint authorities,” they said. They added that the government had appointed an implementation commissioner required under the Police Act 2017 for the implementation of the law and establishment of its bodies. “The implementation commissioner completed his one year term but the bodies are yet to be formed,” an official said.
The writer is a journalist based in PeshawarNeelam Hussain