The non-government International Crisis Group says the military government of President Pervaiz Musharraf has done little to enforcement mechanisms for accountability, and the police remained political pawns. With a new democratically-elected government in place, the time may be ripe for change.
Presenter: Sen Lam
Speaker: Mark Schneider, senior vice president of the International Crisis Group
SCHNEIDER: The fundamental problem is that it's been politicised over the past six or seven years the military government has essentially made the police a part of its political operation. It's moved officers around, promoted others without regard to merit essentially and basically used a political measuring stick in terms of who got appointed to which positions. They used the police on election fraud, they used the police on repression and as a result the police have lost to a significant degree their credibility throughout the country.
LAM: Well Pakistan has a new democratically elected government now. But what indications are there that the government might be in a political mood if you like to institute change?
SCHNEIDER: Well I think that the government has already indicated its determination to deal with corruption within the police, to seek to make the police an independent body to enforce the law. They've talked about actually implementing some of the reforms that were in a law passed in 2002 that would establish what are called Public Safety Commissions to actually oversee, but instead of having political overseerers, to have professional supervisors if you will and to have distinguished citizens local and provincial and national sitting on those bodies to provide a degree of oversight.
LAM: So would you say then that at the moment there is deep mistrust between the Pakistani people, the wider community and the police force?
SCHNEIDER: Precisely and that's absolutely critical if you think it about. How do you deal with an insurgency, how do you deal with extremists? What you do is you have a functioning, effective rule of law where you have police and judiciary and a system for bringing those who violate the law to justice with an independent, impartial and effective competent force.
LAM: On the ground though do you think people in Pakistan are worried about safety and security? Are these key issues for them?
SCHNEIDER: Without any question, there are probably two key issues in Pakistan today; one is security and the other is economics. Pakistan continues to be a country with an enormous amount of poverty and lack of development and the new government is committed to deal with both issues.
LAM: But do the people see the police instead of being a solution to be a problem in itself?
SCHNEIDER: Without any question at the moment they see the police force as a police force that contains an enormous amount of corruption which has been engaged in an abuse of human rights and which has failed to fulfill the basic functions of enforcing the law in an independent and impartial way.
LAM: It does seem to be fairly entrenched though, so it must be a tremendous challenge to change police culture if you like?
SCHNEIDER: Without any question, that's why I'm saying that it's quite important for the new parliament to be adopting measures to implement the Public Safety Commissions and to establish oversight, including setting up parliamentary committees to essentially hold police accountable.
LAM: And what about women, police abuse against women, do you think part of the problem is that there is not a high participation rate of women in the police force?
SCHNEIDER: Not only is there a lack of participation of women at if you will the patrol level, but there's extremely few women who are at higher levels of the police force, and there needs to be a major initiative to recruit women and to ensure that there are no discriminations in their appointments and in the promotions of women within the police force.