Community police in Malakand

Community police force in Malakand division

By Tahir Ali

http://e.thenews.com.pk/11-11-2012/nos_page18.asp

While there are doubts on the future of the nascent Community Police Force (CPF) in Malakan division as per a report, a senior official of the Malakand police said they are not being disbanded in near future.

Locals say they need to be retained, sufficiently trained and compensated for the task they were inducted for –community protection against militants.

Soon after the 2009 military operation that drove the Maulana Fazlullah-led militants out of the region, the CPF, also called special police force, was raised to check terrorism at community level and to fill the gap between required and available police personnel at that critical juncture.

Members of the CPF were recruited on the recommendation of local jirgas under the supervision of the Pakistan army.

Around seven thousand poor youth had joined the CPF in Swat,Buner,Dir upper/lower and Shangla, in late 2009 for one year. Paid by the provincial government, their services are extended after every year.

Some police officials had resigned from service. Some even had to publish their resignations in newspapers as demanded by militants there. Militants had killed around 180 police officials, including a police-woman Alia, who was murdered for she had refused to tender resignation.

The members of the CPF were trained by army for 6 weeks before they joined the force. They were provided official weapons and black clothes and were distributed in the police stations in the districts of their domicile. They provided valuable help to army and police in tracking down militants as they were fully conversant with the local norms and the area terrain. Some CPF personnel were also awarded for their effective role against militants.

CPF formation and involvement of local communities for crime prevention and intelligence-gathering is a pragmatic approach. Also, police strength is even insufficient for routine policing. Rising tide of terrorism has further increased their woes.

The idea of community policing has been successfully implemented in several countries like Italy, France, Germany, Britain, Switzerland, Sweden and India. The US had also resorted to this concept in Iraq.

The members of the CPF in Malakand are, as per the terms of their service, still being paid Rs10,000 per month. Thousands of the poor and nominally educated persons had thronged the centres to join the force. They hardly had any other option for rampant unemployment and acute poverty.

While legally speaking they are under obligation to work against this salary and remain contractual employees, but when thousands of other contractual employees in other departments are being regularised, why are the CPF members denied the facility?

The CPF has given many sacrifices. In the recent fatal attack on Fateh Khan, the president of the peace body in Buner, three of his body guards who lost their lives, were also the CPF members.

In September last year KP Chief Minister Ameer Haidar Khan Hoti had said his government couldn`t afford to wrap up CPF in Swat under current delicate security situation. But there are unconfirmed reports that the force is being disbanded from December this year.

“Community Police was hired under a contact agreement for 2 years in 2009. This contract has subsequently been renewed on yearly basis. The fiscal year in government runs from July – June. Hence the present contract is valid till June 2013. Therefore they are not being disbanded in December,” said Akhtar Hayat Khan, the Deputy Inspector general of police in Malakand division through an emailed response.

While Pakistan army has handed over control of administration to civil authorities in Shangla and Buner in May 2011 and it plans to hand it over in other parts of Malakand division soon, what is needed is the capacity building of existing regular police and CPFand augmenting it with new inductions rather than depriving the existing CPF of their services, locals say.

A clear, hold, build and transfer of authority to civil administration and financial empowerment of the locals and elsewhere must be the basic ingredient of any counter-terrorism strategy. Militancy can’t be defeated without poverty eradication. Depriving the MCP members of their jobs and income sources will render them more vulnerable to militants.

“The Special Police Force personnel are not being terminated in the near future. Moreover, the government , security forces and the police department specially has tried to create a peaceful atmosphere in Malakand Division . Last year saw a record number of tourists in excess of 400,000 visiting Swat during Summer. Swat’s economy is tourism dependent, once it picks upon the reliance on government jobs should decrease,” added the official.

Afzal Khan Lala, the nationalist leader from Swat, while enumerating several attacks on the police in Swat and other parts of the province, noted that police was and is the front line defence of the state and the major target of militants. They know if police is defeated, they would be free to do what they like.

He was all praise for the CPF and urged its retention. “It filled the gap created by the killing/injuring and desertions of police in Malakand division. Doing away with them is tantamount to facilitating the militants. In the event of planned delegation of control to civilian forces, which necessitates increase in personnel and capacities, they must be retained and regularised. They must also be strengthened with sophisticated weapons and training for their capacity building,” he added.

Though the number of police personnel has almost been doubled in Malakand division, there are still around 16000 police personnel, much less than required to make a viable alternative for around 50000 army personnel in Malakand division.

According to Zahid Khan, a leader of Swat Qaumi Jirga (SQJ), the induction of MCP had been suggested by SQJ.

“Rather than forming Peace Lashkars, we thought it better to suggest and arrange the CPF that would have official recognition, power and weapons. They were intended to guard the community by manning the streets and entry/exit point of villages. They were a better option in counter-terrorism strategy as they knew the locals and could easily identify non-locals or suspicious persons. Unfortunately, they are being used for performing tasks like hounding drug pedlars etc and not specifically used for community protection,” he said.

“Most of them are in community policing. They work in their police station areas . The advantage being their familiarity with the area and its people. Some are also employed for intelligence collection, which you would agree is essential to thwart incidents. In course of duty they might have been part of a drug peddler arrest but then doesn’t arrest of drug peddlers also contribute to a safe and peaceful community. Regular Police and Special Police carry out patrolling together,” opined Mr Hayat Akhtar.

“If they are to be used as regular police, they need to be regularised, trained like them and scrutinised. The government needs to increase their monthly salary and give them other benefits. But if they are used only as guards, their pay is enough and in consonance with the contract with them,” Mr Zahid Khan added.

However there are many complaints against them. “As most of them are uneducated and insufficiently trained, hence desertions, mistakes like unintentionally killing their counterparts and behaviour problems have been observed. Quite a few have been dismissed for these reasons. Again most of them were inducted without proper scrutiny that’s why one of the CPF members carried out attack on the passing out parade of a CPF batch in Municipal committee Swat last year, killing several of them,” Zahid Khan argued.

While locals say quite a few have left the job for less pay and lack of other allowances, the official source said only a few have resigned from their service for they joined other departments.

“No desertions have taken place in Special Police Force. Some have left jobs by terminating their contracts by finding more fruitful jobs either in the government or private sector, which is a natural phenomenon as pursuit of better prospects is the right of every individual,” opined Mr Akhtar.

He also rejected as totally unfounded that any community police personel had ever carried out suicide attack. “The suicide bomber in the Mingora Police Station Bombing in which members of Special Police Force embraced Shahadat was not a SPF Constable. This attack too occurred in 2009 and not last year as erroneously suggested. Again, nobody has been killed by the firing of a Special Police Force Colleague barring one incident of accidental firing of weapon in Shamozai in 2010,” added Mr Akhar.

Under the Shahuda package of provincial police, the relatives of the martyred regular police personnel are given Rs3 million and their families get their salaries until the year of their retirement. It couldn’t be ascertained whether the CPF members also receive the same amount if killed in terrorism incidents. But Zahid Khan says they are given only Rs0.3mn –the amount due to each civilian killed in terrorism.

When asked, Aftab Alam advocate from Swat expressed his ignorance as to whether it is part of the CPF contract or not.

“MCP members, being contractual employees, are entitled to get only the benefits mentioned in their contracts. They can’t claim benefits like pension etc accrued to regular civil servants if not specifically mentioned in their contracts. That’s the legal situation. Morally speaking, they also deserve to be given benefits like posthumous compensation amount and other benefits available to other regular employees,” he said.

The CPF members must be cognisant of their role and limits. They should not be allowed to investigate crimes at local level as this would create tensions and complexities for the regular investigators.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

………….

As the article was published in The News.

Community police force in Malakand division

By Tahir Ali

While there are doubts on the future of the nascent Community Police Force (CPF) in Malakan division, locals say they need to be retained, sufficiently trained and compensated for the task they were inducted for –community protection against militants.

Soon after the 2009 military operation that drove the Maulana Fazlullah-led militants out of the region, the CPF, also called special police force, was raised to check terrorism at community level and to fill the gap between required and available police personnel at that critical juncture.

Some of police officials had resigned from service for recurring incidences of militant reprisals. Militants had killed around 180 police officials, including a police-woman Alia, who was murdered for she had refused to tender resignation.

Members of the CPF were recruited on the recommendation of local jirgas under the supervision of the Pakistan army.

Around seven thousand poor youth had joined the CPF in Swat,Buner,Dir upper/lower and Shangla, in late 2009 for one year. Paid by the provincial government, their services are extended after every six months.

The members of the CPF were trained by army for two months before they joined the force. They were provided official weapons and black clothes and were distributed in the police stations in the districts of their domicile. They provided valuable help to army and police in tracking down militants as they were fully conversant with the local norms and the area terrain. Some CPF personnel were also awarded for their effective role against militants.

CPF formation and involvement of local communities for crime prevention and intelligence-gathering is a pragmatic approach. Also, police strength is even insufficient for routine policing. Rising tide of terrorism has further increased their woes.

The idea of community policing has been successfully implemented in several countries like Italy, France, Germany, Britain, Switzerland, Sweden and India. The US had also resorted to this concept in Iraq.

The members of the CPF in Malakand are, as per the terms of their service, still being paid Rs10,000 per month. Thousands of the poor and nominally educated persons had thronged the centres to join the force. They hardly had any other option for rampant unemployment and acute poverty.

While legally speaking they are under obligation to work against this salary and remain contractual employees, but when thousands of other contractual employees in other departments are being regularised, why are the CPF members denied the facility?

The CPF has given many sacrifices. In the recent fatal attack on Fateh Khan, the president of the peace body in Buner, three of his body guards who lost their lives, were also the CPF members.

While locals say quite a few have left the job for less pay and lack of other allowances, an official source said only a few have resigned from their service for they joined other departments.

In September last year KP Chief Minister Ameer Haidar Khan Hoti had said his government couldn`t afford to wrap up CPF in Swat under current delicate security situation. But there are unconfirmed reports that the force is being disbanded from December this year.

While Pakistan army has handed over control of administration to civil authorities in Shangla and Buner in May 2011 and it plans to hand it over in other parts of Malakand division soon, what is needed is the capacity building of existing regular police and CPFand augmenting it with new inductions rather than depriving the existing CPF of their services, locals say.

A clear, hold, build and transfer of authority to civil administration and financial empowerment of the locals and elsewhere must be the basic ingredient of any counter-terrorism strategy. Militancy can’t be defeated without poverty eradication. Depriving the MCP members of their jobs and income sources will render them more vulnerable to militants.

Afzal Khan Lala, the nationalist leader from Swat, while enumerating several attacks on the police in Swat and other parts of the province, noted that police was and is the front line defence of the state and the major target of militants. They know if police is defeated, they would be free to do what they like.

He was all praise for the CPF and urged its retention. “It filled the gap created by the killing/injuring and desertions of police in Malakand division. Doing away with them is tantamount to facilitating the militants. In the event of planned delegation of control to civilian forces, which necessitates increase in personnel and capacities, they must be retained and regularised. They must also be strengthened with sophisticated weapons and training for their capacity building,” he added.

Though the number of police personnel has almost been doubled in Malakand division, there are still around 16000 police personnel, much less than required to make a viable alternative for around 50000 army personnel in Malakand division.

According to Zahid Khan, a leader of Swat Qaumi Jirga (SQJ), the induction of MCP had been suggested by SQJ.

“Rather than forming Peace Lashkars, we thought it better to suggest and arrange the CPF that would have official recognition, power and weapons. They were intended to guard the community by manning the streets and entry/exit point of villages. They were a better option in counter-terrorism strategy as they knew the locals and could easily identify non-locals or suspicious persons. Unfortunately, they are being used for performing tasks like hounding drug pedlars etc and not specifically used for community protection,” he said.

“If they are to be used as regular police, they need to be regularised, trained like them and scrutinised. The government needs to increase their monthly salary and give them other benefits. But if they are used only as guards, their pay is enough and in consonance with the contract with them,” he added.

However there are many complaints against them. “As most of them are uneducated and insufficiently trained, hence desertions, mistakes like unintentionally killing their counterparts and behaviour problems have been observed. Quite a few have been dismissed for these reasons. Again most of them were inducted without proper scrutiny that’s why one of the CPF members carried out attack on the passing out parade of a CPF batch in Municipal committee Swat last year, killing several of them,” Khan argued.

Under the Shahuda package of provincial police, the relatives of the martyred regular police personnel are given Rs3 million and their families get their salaries until the year of their retirement. It couldn’t be ascertained whether the CPF members also receive the same amount if killed in terrorism incidents. But Zahid Khan says they are given only Rs0.3mn –the amount due to each civilian killed in terrorism.

When asked, Aftab Alam advocate from Swat expressed his ignorance as to whether it is part of the CPF contract or not.

“CPF members, being contractual employees, are entitled to get only the benefits mentioned in their contracts. They can’t claim benefits like pension etc accrued to regular civil servants if not specifically mentioned in their contracts. That’s the legal situation. Morally speaking, they also deserve to be given benefits like posthumous compensation amount and other benefits available to other regular employees,” he said.

The CPF members must be cognisant of their role and limits. They should not be allowed to investigate crimes at local level as this would create tensions and complexities for the regular investigators.

No official response could be obtained on the observations by the filing of the story on Friday morning.

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About Tahir Ali Khan
I am an academic, freelance columnist, writer and a social worker.

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