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Archive for March, 2000

The visit

After weeks of speculation, the White House confirmed in a cryptic announcement that US President Bill Clinton would visit Pakistan during his South Asia tour in the second half of March. Normally it would not make a difference but to be shut out during his South Asian tour in the present international security environment in the face of massive Indian propaganda blitz would have been a disaster of the greatest magnitude. The strong Indian lobby went to great lengths to have the visit cancelled, their failure made it so much more pleasurable for Pakistanis. That it signifies “legitimacy” of the present governance mode was claimed by the Chief Executive (CE) and denied by the US President himself. That the visit does convey legitimacy of sorts is undeniable but that the visit was not meant to do so is also undeniable. To understand the complexity of US-Pakistan relations one has to go over not only the past history but the present situation and what is to be expected in the future. Only then we can answer the question as to how both the US President and the Pakistani CE could be both right and wrong at the same time.


Police Reforms

The deterioration of law and order in Pakistan to the point of virtual anarchy is mainly because of the rank ineffectiveness of the prime law enforcement agency of the country, the police service. This state of affairs is the culmination of many inadequacies, e.g. bad pay and service conditions, politicisation and nepotism in recruitment, recruitment of inferior manpower, lack of training, lack of education, promotion without merit, etc all resulting in corruption across the board. The laundry list of wrongs is quite long, along with economic apocalypse it spells doom and disaster. Police Stations (Thanas) should have been an oasis for citizens to reach out to solve their security problems, they have become such dens of evil that they breed insecurity among common citizens who stay clear of them unless there is no other choice. Obviously this has affected society adversely, leading to a breakdown of the fabric that binds citizens within a moral plane of positive co-existence within the laws of the land. That is what civilisation is all about and we in Pakistan are very close to a rapid descent into the laws of the jungle.
That police reforms are necessary in the face of decades of neglect nobody doubts. We are prisoners of the Police Act of 1861, reports of commissions after commissions have become historical record, figuratively consigned to the waste paper basket. To break the logjam the “Focal Group on Police Reforms” was convened by the Federal Minister of Interior, Lt Gen Moinuddin Haider and did just that in the space of a few crucial weeks in January and February this year, producing a workable document after an intense debate that was high on intellectual content as well as long on the pragmatism required to effect meaningful change. Instead of getting bogged down in endless theoretical discourse as had previous Commissions, the Focal Group concentrated on macro-reforms to set in place an institutional process that would by its very existence effect meaningful micro-reforms. The Focal Group consisted of academics, mediamen, lawyers, senior bureaucrats and police officers, both serving and retired. They were drawn from all the Provinces and brought to the table years of knowledge and experience as well as a positive feel for the need for change. Change cannot be brought about without making someone unhappy somewhere, however the discussions were marked by a positive inclination to go for consensus rather than let the brute force of an outright majority make for an aggrieved minority. There was a marked absence of both vested interest as well as mutual acrimony that is the hallmark of such discussions. The process thus ensured that a wide range of diverse opinion was accommodated.