Pakistan’s interior minister has put pad to the notion of civilian supremacy.
Following the June 20 kidnapping of the son of Sindh High Court’s chief justice and the June 22 assassination of Amjad Sabri, a qawwali singer, Islamabad (the civilians) and Rawalpindi (the military) jointly descended on the hapless city of Karachi—again, I might add—to discuss, we assume, what all needed to be done and was still not done, even as statement after statement has told us of how much has been done.
The high-level meetings, for now, have ended with Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Khan’s presser on Monday night. Here are some highlights.
Karachi police will get 20,000 recruits. If you have a problem, throw more money and people at it. However, since the civilians cannot even wash their nether regions, let alone conduct a recruitment exercise without lining their pockets, Nisar has told us that the Army will assist in ensuring that the recruits be selected and trained on merit. The Army will help in equipping them with ‘light arms’ [sic!], by which I am sure he means ‘small arms.’ [NB: for Nisar’s future reference, the term is small arms and light weapons and both are different.]
First off, Nisar should be congratulated for putting to rest the idea of civilian supremacy. It lived, in any case, only in articles such as this. But it’s good to be reassured by none less than the interior minister that civilian supremacy is dead and interred. What, however, is his locus standi after this fact is moot. But, if for nothing else than to avoid another longwinded presser by him, I shan’t open up that question.
For now, I shall confine myself to what he said about the police.
Three years on the job as interior minister and Nisar still doesn’t get the idea of effective policing. I have no doubt that he would have got briefings from police officers, but that’s not the way to go about it. Police officers, especially the PSP cadre, will never give him the full story because they are part of the problem. To get a perspective, he would need to study works that deal with modern policing. Consider.
Recruiting another 20,000 personnel in and of itself will not make the police effective. Getting the Army to equip and train them with small arms doesn’t cut it either. Policing is not about the use of weapons. It is about acquiring other skills. This approach, however, has become standard despite being totally flawed. Raise a force, put them in fancy uniform, give them Beretta pistols and MP5s, add fast motorbikes (Exhibit: the Dolphins in Lahore) and voila!
Here’s the bad news for Nisar and whoever suggested that more personnel would somehow make policing more effective. It won’t. Or to put it another way—as implied by Nisar’s solution—if there had been 20,000 more policemen in Karachi before June 20, the chief justice’s son would not have been kidnapped and Amjad Sabri would still be alive. It doesn’t work like this. Even with the best policing system incidents happen. But, first, Nisar needs to figure out how to approach the concept of modern policing.
At this point, my problem is, how does one pen all that one has penned, yet again. That said, let me try.
Karachi needs its own police and policing system. This means not just recruiting people, on merit or without merit, but to have a new, standalone system, linked to an effective mayoral office. Paraphrased, this means Karachi—which is not just a city but is almost a country—needs to have its own city government and its own police.
Nisar should study the metropolitan police models. Throwing good money after bad or throwing more people at the problem will not solve it.
Second, please, I repeat, please, understand that giving very basic weapons training to policemen doesn’t make a policeman. That training, at a very advanced level, is only meant for SWAT teams. Effective policing means other skill sets—the ability to deal with crime scenes, forensics, investigation, analysis, communications and interception, financials, prosecution et cetera. This means creating specializations and sub-specializations.
Third, there is no concept of effective counterterrorism without effective policing. They are part of the same continuum. Effective counterterrorism requires effective policing, which requires police-community relations. And the police’s relations with communities require moving away from looking at the police as constabulary for maintaining law and order to a modern force ensuring and maintaining public safety. For sound police-community relations, it is important that Karachi is policed by Karachi. The same is true of other urban centers. That principle is fundamental to met policing
Fourth, the most effective force for counterterrorism is the police. No other organization can have the community outreach the police can have. Rangers and the Army should back it up where and when necessary but neither should be responsible for, or be tasked to, police a city. That is not their job. They have done well for the most part, but if Nisar and the Sindh government want to exercise civilian authority and make policing effective, they will have to go about it the right way after stepping up to the plate. More of the same, with same being basically not much or outright flawed, is unlikely to get us anywhere different.
Fifth, doing this will need some fundamental changes, beginning with a distinction between urban and rural policing. The current organizational structures, including the PSP as it currently stands and functions, will have to go. Police intake will need to be direct and not through the current 3-tiered system. The police force will need its own academies and specialized schools. Its ranks and incentive structures will have to undergo changes. All this requires setting up a committee comprising legislators and experts that can recommend and detail the new system.
The world has done this. Surely, we can do this too. This is not to say that there will be no resistance. Organizations have a tendency to resist change. In the second edition of Essence of Decision, Graham Allison and Phillip Zelikow say: “The best explanation of an organization’s behavior at t is t-1; the best prediction of what will happen at t+1 is t.” And yet, change is the only permanence.
Nisar, to be an effective interior minister, needs to show leadership with a vision, as does his boss who, for now, is absent from the scene. Else, we will be like a vehicle stuck in mud; the more you rev up the engine, the more furiously and futilely do the wheels spin in the same place for lack of traction.
Haider is editor of national-security affairs at Capital TV. He was a Ford Scholar at the Program in Arms Control, Disarmament and International Security at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution, Washington, D.C. He tweets @ejazhaider
The opinions expressed in this column are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect, in part or whole, those held by Newsweek Pakistan.