Post-conflict policing by Mohammad Ali Babakhel

Post-conflict challenges require institutional reforms leading to the restoration of public trust

Prior to the 25th amendment to the Constitution in the absence of operational criminal justice system (CJS) in erstwhile FATA, reporting of crimes had not been the tradition. Therefore, dispute resolution primarily remained the domain of tribal elders and the Jirga. In Newly Merged Districts (NMDs), except the Kurram district, land ownership is primarily restricted to tribes (collective ownership). Introduction of policing and operationalisation of other components of CJS may increase the reporting of civil nature disputes and criminal offences. Hence the success of the new system requires a proactive approach and improved coordination within CJS.

In post-conflict situations, countries confronted with armed conflicts also debated the effectiveness of police. Globally in few conflicts, police had been considered part of the problem, human rights violator or an ineffective department of the government. However, in our context tribal areas were not policed by regular police but rather law enforcement consisted of a cocktail of customary tribal forces.

Globally in conflict areas, it is difficult to distinguish between police and military. Restructuring of the extraordinary powers, entrusted to LEAs during conflict time, needs revision. During conflicts, military and police often come too close with the result that the police are often militarised. Therefore, their delinking is inevitable, in the public interest.

Rwanda and Sierra Leone police were reformed after the conflicts. Before the war, Sierra Leone police were known as corrupt, incompetent, and violators of human rights. However, reforms resulted in improved police-community relations. Here, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa is a good example where police reforms were initiated during the last phase of violent extremism — something that helped in the transformation of police from combatants to public servicemen.

Internal conflicts not only challenge and disturb the old order but also bring a new order. The same analogy may be applied to NMDs where FCR has been buried and collective responsibility/ punishment was transformed into the individual’s responsibility. Societies confronted with conflicts cannot be reformed without diagnostic approach and doable reforms. In post-conflict situations, transforming police from a force to democratic police responsible to public oversight improves public trust.

Post-conflict challenges require institutional reforms leading to the restoration of public trust. History illustrates that conflicts do not end abruptly. Apparently, there may be agreed peace but conflict may continue after intervals or sporadically. Therefore, LEAs need to plan accordingly otherwise over-celebration of peace may undo the progress, and peace may experience a reversal.

Traditionally winning war makes the winners relax. During that time spoilers may try to derail the hard-earned peace. Staging smooth transit from conflict to peace simultaneously requires a vigilant eye on residual violent elements and implementation of the constitutional, legal and administrative reforms. However, implementation of reforms is not possible without enhanced institutional capabilities.

Prior to police reforms, South Africa had 11 police forces where police were known as brutal, corrupt, militarised and hierarchical. Hence, integration and reforms were gigantic tasks. Though Levies and Khasadars have been integrated into K-P police, the filtration process is lacking. Tribal forces had no strict recruitment and training standards. On the contrary, police have much improved standards. There was no training facility for such forces in FATA. Hasty integration of such forces in police may adversely impact the discipline and image of the police.

Since in post-conflict situations former militants are confronted with unemployment, their rehabilitation and reintegration require planned efforts. Without active involvement of LEAs, their reintegration may remain a distant reality. While establishing Burundian National Police in 2004 ex-combatants were also integrated whereas 50 per cent of the total strength comprises former combatants. A former rebel leader, Alain Bunyoni was appointed as head of new National Police. But keeping in view the hard nature of militants in Pakistan such cannot be replicated. In Pakistan, as many as 3,201 persons have been placed on schedule IV. Surveillance of such persons is a difficult task yet periodic revision of such lists will simultaneously improve the surveillance and the credibility of the state.

In Liberia following Accra accord, restructuring of police was carried out. Allocation of more funds for procurement of uniforms resulted in increased visibility that helped police to re-establish its presence. To replicate best practices for NMDs, K-P Police requires exclusive “human resource and assets management units”. Though with limited financial resources K-P Police is striving its best to push the reforms process, the real issue is the exclusion of “deadwood” within the force inherited from NMDs. Exclusion of such elements requires political will, financial package and strict scrutiny. An otherwise mere change of uniform and ranks may not serve the purpose.

Without women police officers it’s impossible to interview and investigate female victims, accused and witnesses. Without instant evidence collection, making injury sheets and completion of legal formalities of post-mortem reduction in crimes against women will remain a distant reality. Low female representation in police mars the efforts in prevention and investigation of crimes against women. Since enlistment of women in NMDs is almost impossible, female police officers are to be enlisted from adjoining districts. Non-availability of forensic laboratory will negatively impact the quality of investigation so the establishment of a forensic laboratory at Kohat will cater to the needs of four to five NMDs. Frequent inspections of police stations and village touring will further strengthen police effectiveness.

Prolonged conflicts result in a deteriorated level of human rights which leads to the residents becoming more aware of their rights. Therefore, enhanced human rights capacity of police would increase the public trust.

The merger is primarily a transit from customary laws and practices to statutory laws. Therefore, in order to make the process smooth, community education about such laws is inevitable. Further, keeping in view the tribal dynamics, NMDs offer a conducive environment for community policing.

The Police Act 2017 guarantees public safety. But owing to certain obstacles the law is yet to be fully made operational in settled districts. What to talk of its implementation in NMDs then! Public safety warrants that public safety commissions, police liaison councils, complaint authorities and dispute resolution councils are to be made functional in NMDs.

Globally, border areas provide temptation for corrupt practices. Therefore, credibility warrants strict implementation of anti-corruption strategy otherwise it will provide space for corrupt monopolists to ruin the purpose of the reforms.

­Published in The Express Tribune, July 22nd, 2020.

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