Rangers’ plea for more powers


-Editorial

WEB DESK: The honourable Supreme Court has rightly rejected the plea by Rangers for police powers on the grounds that this would require amendment in the law and that is the function of the legislature and not the courts. Prima facie, there is merit to the Sindh government’s stand in the Supreme Court that the Rangers’ demand for police powers amounts to creating a parallel system of criminal justice. But what to do if the provincial police have miserably failed to get hold of criminals, secure their punishments and restore peace and tranquillity in Karachi. That’s indeed a dilemma the apex court has asked the federal and provincial governments and concerned stakeholders to look into and propose a proper solution in the larger interest of the megacity.

These clearly mismatching positions taken by the Rangers and the Sindh government emerged as the court took up the Karachi law and order suo motu proceedings early this week. Understandably, out of sheer desperation, the Rangers requested the Supreme Court to order the concerned authorities to allow them to set up their own police stations with powers to register FIRs, investigate and submit charge sheets or challans. It also wants the provincial government to extend its tenure by one year instead of 90-day piecemeal extensions. But that is not acceptable to the provincial government. It has stoutly opposed the Rangers’ proposal, both on the legal ground and what it presented to the court as performance of police as law enforcement force.

While the court has not commented on the former part of the government’s stand it rejected the latter part of the argument pointing out myriad lapses committed by the provincial authorities. The court was particularly intrigued at release of two convicts of a kidnapping case on parole, and asked the inspector general to submit a list of prisoners released on parole since 2012.

And there are no signs if the Sindh government is ready to accept its failings. It doesn’t want to admit that over the last many years its police force has been deeply politicised, and that instead of performing as a law enforcement agency, the Sindh police acted more often in compliance with dictat of its political masters. In cases marked by them, the investigation reports are grossly misleading, making it problematic for the courts to award punishments to the otherwise known criminals. If they find someone in the force defying their wishes he is transferred to some highly inhospitable place, if not relegated to the lower rank.

Since the recruitments almost at all levels have been made on political grounds, the performance of the police force invariably carries that biased tinge. In actuality, despite a number of incentives accorded to the provincial government to augment and improve the efficiency and more importantly its neutrality, the erosion of legality of the authority remains unchecked. On the other hand, on the question of law enforcement the provincial government finds itself so much out of the pail of law that its inspector general took a defiant stand in the Supreme Court when it rejected his report on law and order situation in the city. If you feel so much unjustly treated by the court you may move an application in this regard, Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali told the inspector general.

Clearly then the provincial government is opposed to the Rangers’ plea for extended tenure and more policing powers. And, undoubtedly, their plea has a justified basis. Since their induction into the Karachi situation, which had reached almost the stage of no return, in September 2013 the law and order situation in the megacity has considerably improved. There is a dramatic decline in the incidence of targeted killing, extortion and kidnapping for ransom. Criminal gangs appear to have lost their hold on the residents. The city streets are relatively safe, though to some extent the small crime like mugging and mobile-snatching persists.

That the Rangers get more powers and stay in the city for more time is a plea that has won the unreserved support of the public in general and business community in particular. Accepted, in constitutional ambience the paramilitary force which the Rangers is, cannot be granted a permanent policing role. But these are exceptional times in the country, and require exceptional means to confront and control the challenges like the abysmal law and order situation that once prevailed in this city of over 20 million people. The Sindh government better gets its act together and depoliticize the police or risk further erosion of its authority as there is bound to be clamour for more powers to the Rangers.

Source: Business Recorder