Having obtained consensus from all the political parties for a dialogue with those terrorists who are misusing religion as a platform, the Nawaz Sharif government in Pakistan turned its attention to the militant-infested crucially 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 (province) 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 their constitutional duty in hunting down target killers and other criminals. With many of these members of the ruling party, this will take some doing.
The constant drumbeat was that the Civil Armed Forces (CAF) in the form of Rangers and the local Sindh police that together constitute the law enforcement agencies (LEAs) in Sindh were rendered powerless because of existing laws. PML (N)’s Zahid Hamid was commissioned to make the LEAs effective by giving them additional powers, duplicating that 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 locally in Karachi and throughout 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 for a specific period so as not to be misused in the future. The LEAs carry an unsavory reputation for integrity or exercising restraint, misuse of such powers will seriously endanger safety of broad mass of innocent citizens.
Without oversight ensuring public safety during the operations by an effective check and balance mechanism, the long suffering public who 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 viz (i) time bound measurable performances, viz (a) extortion, bhatta and/or land grabbing (b) target killing and kidnapping for ransom (c) sectarian atrocities, recovery of bombs, explosives and weapons (ii) providing benchmarks for detection, investigation and/or disposal of cases through policy recommendations and (iii) eliminating fraud and chancery at the polling booths during elections.
The PSC should comprise (a) five members, with one member nominated as Chairman (b) The PSC Secretariat be established immediately and be headed by a Secretary with requisite infra-structure i.e. office premises, staff, logistics 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 assessee and of proven professional competence in such fields as social work, law, administration, education, corporate sector, government (preferably law enforcement), etc, not be activists of any political party, held any representative office or remained a public servant in the six months immediately preceding such appointment, suffering from physical or mental incapacity or illness, declared bankrupt, loan defaulter or tax evader 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 or grounds of corruption or any other form of misconduct convicted of a criminal offence, without conflict or interest; or involved in activities prejudicial to the ideology and integrity of Pakistan, its people and/or society as such.
Board Members should serve a minimum of two years, extendable on a yearly basis. He or she cannot be removed except if he or she resigns or is disqualified for any misconduct, this to be decided by majority of the remaining members of the Board collectively.
The functions of PSC should be to (a) probe into any complaint of illegal detention or abuse of authority by any member of LEAs (b) to provide relief to victims thereof of misuse of powers or otherwise by LEAs and victims of crime and/or terrorism (c) recommend compensation thereof (d) make recommendations to the govt for improvement of law and order and reduction in crime (e) facilitate real-time and effective co-ordination amongst all the LEAs (f) recommend reforms for laws and procedure in respect of police, prosecution, prisons and probation services (g) perform functions safeguarding interest of the people as may be assigned by the government, in particular pertaining to the prosecution, prisons and probation services (h) submit an annual report to the Federal Govt that shall include (1) PSC’s performance during the year; and (2) 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 PSC by the government.
As for the conduct of business, the PSC (a) shall notify rules for conduct of business (b) with a minimum of 3 members (c) may probe any case either filed before it or at its own or on a reference from government and/or any LEA (d) may publish its report and recommendations as per rules (e) 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 (a) earmarking cases of public importance and seek report of investigation from Inquiry Officer / Supervisory Officer before the submission of report U/S 173 Cr PC to the court (b) for all legal and operational matters exercise the powers equivalent and as entrusted to the Provincial Ombudsman (c) The actions / decisions of the Members of the PSC always be construed to have been taken or done in good faith, in the best public interest and not be called in question by any court of law or suit for any liability.
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) guilty of misconduct (d) found having a conflict of interest (e) convicted of a criminal offense (f) declared bankrupt, loan defaulter or tax evader (g) 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 its 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 laws specially crafted giving the LEAs draconian powers. To prevent superior courts being clogged with cases of human rights abuse, it is imperative to have an duly legislated “overnight mechanism” in the form of PSC (with acknowledgment and profound gratitude for the contribution in depth by Jameel Yousuf, prominent businessman and former Chairman, CPLC).
The article is Pakistan-based defense analyst.