CPLC: a viable allternative to the police?

 

90-28-07-1995-ABy Zubeida Mustafa

THE TRAUMATISED citizens of Karachi, where violence has killed over 1900 people in 18 months, live with a dilemma. Should they seek the help of the police in an emergency?

The harrowing experiences people recount of the law enforcers’ highhandedness deter victims of crime from seeking redress. Only in serious cases involving murder, kidnapping and car snatching are reports lodged, when one cannot avoid dealing with the custodians of the law.

The failure of the police to curb crime and violence in Karachi in a way vindicates the skepticism of the public. The credibility of the police is low and rampant corruption has robbed them of the confidence of the people. But the situation need not be all that bleak. Crime and violence need not be the curse of Karachi, if only the political will and the necessary systems are created to make the city safe and secure.

This can be done, as has been convincingly proved by Jameel Yusuf, who co-founded with Nazim Haji the Citizens-Police Liaison Committee in 1990 when kidnapping for ransom had become a lucrative occupation in Karachi Since most of the victims were businessmen who were targeted because of their wealth, it was not surprising that two of their most dynamic members should have decided to act. That saw the birth of the CPLC, of course with the government’s blessings. Governor Fakhruddin Ebrahim gave the Committee space in the Governor’s House compound to set up its Central Reporting Cell with all its electronic adgetry and computers. Within five years, the CPLC had proved that the most hopeless of situations can be changed. The incidence of kidnapping for ransom fell from 79 in 1990 to three this year because the Committee’s success in solving a high number of cases has proved to be a deterrent.90-28-07-1995-CMore important than that was the fact that for the first time a new avenue was now available to the harassed citizens to seek prompt redress when they became victims of police excesses. The CPLC has emerged as an arbiter to look into the citizens’ complaints against the police.

Given his excellent track record, Jameel Yusuf’s observations carry a lot of weight. But he knows his limits. He will not try to bend the law and operates within the existing legal framework — though he does feel that many laws need changing and it is time our lawmakers did something about it. He is also very categorical about the nature of the present violence in Karachi: it has political roots and should therefore be resolved at the political level. Hence the dialogue between the government and the MQM is a positive development,
though the good offices of a mediator could have helped reconcile the differences between the two sides
faster. After all, the disagreements are quite basic. The person who is seen as a terrorist by one side is a freedom fighter for the other.

90-28-07-1995-BMoreover, the crisis in Karachi also has a social dimension for which the CPLC chief blames the
government — in fact all governments which have been in power. They have neglected this metropolis wilfully while fleecing it to the maximum. “If you cannot provide people the basic civic amenities which are their due such as water, sanitation and electricity and they are denied their fundamental rights of schooling for their children and jobs for their youth, how can you expect the citizens not to get disgruntled. That is how some elements have been able to exploit the deprivation and discontent of the people of Karachi for their political ends,” Jameel notes philosophically. They train the teenagers to use the gun and promise to give the people what others have failed to provide in 48 years.

But even with the best of political governance, crime cannot be eradicated totally. In fact, it has been growing worldwide with the growth in population and the development of technology. This needs to be combated with the help of an efficient police force. Do we have such a force?

Jameel Yusuf has specific ideas about the role of the police. He has studied and worked with the Karachi police very closely — that is what the CPLC has been doing in the last five years — and has managed to make inroads into some vital areas of crime detection.

He admits that to a great extent the police is corrupt and inept. But for that he blames the government and the administration. No effort has been made to recruit the right people for the job. Every government which comes into office doles out political favours by getting its supporters appointed to the force. With a stroke of the pen, a political leader has hundreds of men with unknown antecedents recruited in the police. The home addresses they supply are fake. Their characters have not been verified and their records are not available. Yet they have been trained and provided arms ostensibly to fight crime.”Now you have the unenviable situation where you are required to fight the terrorism let loose by many of the same people you yourself have trained and armed. The poor civilians who are not responsible for this state of affairs have become innocent victims,” Jameel observes.

What is needed is a major change in the mode of recruitment to the force. Recruitment needs to
be conducted professionally. Why is it that no one questions the discipline in the armed forces? There is
a chain of command there, and there are rigorous procedures and qualifications for recruitment. Besides, no one can jump ranks or outsiders brought in to infiltrate it. Why are policemen appointed without proper testing? Why are many of them inducted in midstream overriding someone who should have been senior? They are not even required to have passed their Intermediate exam and that is why their expertise is so low.
Jameel Yusuf very strongly recommends that an independent commission be set up to recruit the police. Without some set standards on the basis of which the policemen are selected, the force can never act as a truly professional body. Jameel Yusuf is also critical of the fact that every government in power has sought to use the police for its pojitical ends. This has corrupted the police more than anything else and robbed it of its credibility.cplc

Another factor which he thinks is important to promote a closer rapport between the public and the police is to give it a local complexion. “I don’t ask for the police to be constituted on ethnic lines,” the CPLC chief stresses. “What I do want is that the policemen in a thana be taken from the same neighbourhood where they have lived for years and have their roots there.” Thus they will not only have an interest in the community tljey are serving. They will also be known to the people who live in that neighbourhood. That will act as a check on their committing any excesses. It will also facilitate the work of law enforcement. The police could be linked up with voluntary citizens’ organisations of the area. This liaison between the police and the neighbourhood would be more effective in maintaining law and order

Buf that is not all. The whole system has to be revamped and the police has to be trained and equipped as a modern force. That would by itself help root out quite a bit of the corruption in its ranks. At present, the lowly-paid policeman is expected to run a thana in which even the stationery is not provided. On nine litres of petrol, the mobile is expected to patrol the thana round the clock. The thanedar is expected to feed his family on Rs 2000 or so a month. In other words, the government will have to spend more money on this sector if the police are to work more honestly and efficiently.

The system is so corrupt and obsolete that it is unbelievable. Jameel Yusuf gives examples. “The police
comes out with names of people who are wanted for innumerable crimes. They are nominated in FIRs
as was the case with the Liaquatabad supermarket killings. But they cannot be identified because the police has no records, though they are all men wanted for earlier crimes. They don’t even have photographs
This inefficiency and corruption extend to other departments of the administration as well and affect
the working of the police. For a paltry sum of Rs 2000, a person can obtain a fake identity card. We
have caught people who had fixed their picture on the ID card of a dead man and got away with it.Many people are released on bail on the basis of forged documents which cannot be verified because a letter from one government department never reaches another. Thus the criminal is back in the world of crime,” Jameel Yusuf says.

But most appalling is the failure of the authorities to acquire the latest technology for storing data, monitoring and scanning records. Such technology is available in Pakistan and the CPLC has demonstrated
its effectiveness. At its central reporting cell, computers are used to keep records of all.the cars registered with the motor vehicle department and of the vehicles snatched. This makes it possible to trace their movement in many cases. That is how at one time the CPLC could recover more than 40 per cent of the cars lost. (The recovery rate has gone down not because of any lapses in monitoring but because of lack ,of cooperation tion from the other provinces where these cars are re-registered and sold.)

With the help of this data, the CPLC can tell you which colour and make is most in demand by the car-lifters (white/red Suzuki), which are the days of the week you are most vulnerable (Thursday)
and the time and locality you are most likely to be a victim (one example, between 8-9 p.m. in the
Delton area of Defence Society). The cell has used computers to draw pictures of suspects and scanners to intercept telephone conversations which has helped them trace kidnappers demanding a ransom. Modern technology and methodology are available to conduct investigations in a civilized and scientific manner without torturing and killing a man. Jameel Yusuf is sorry that they are not being put to use in Pakistan by the police

The CPLC’s mandate is not to replace the police. But in the areas it has been asked to intervene, the CPLC has made a breakthrough. This should be reassuring to a demoralised public. But by its very nature, the agency cannot adopt a high profile. When the people in distress who approach it for help do not want the case to be publicised, Jameel Yusuf says that they have to respect the wishes of the party concerned. If they start producing an annual report of their work, they will be treading on many toes. So they keep quiet about it. They, however, have their accounts audited and they are available for scrutiny. But there is one area in which the CPLC would not like to be he quiet: in creating public awareness about safety measures. “We would like to tell the people how to protect their houses and motor cars. What to do and what not to do to preempt the criminal,” the CPLC chief says. But their resources are limited. They have tried a media campaign in newspapers. The ideal would be crime-watch spots on television but the government has not responded to this suggestion and CPLC does not have the resources to do it on its own as PTV wants it to ay excise duty for such ads. The disarray in the administration and the relative efficiency of the unofficial sector has convinced Jameel Yusuf that the only hope for the country lies in entrusting more and more responsibility to the NGOs. True, not all NGOs are honest and actually functioning. But there are some which are doing good work and making a headway. He is right, for after all the CPLC is an NGO, and its limited resources notwithstanding, it has achieved what the police could not.

But one may add, it is not just the expertise that is necessary. Motivation, dynamism and integrity also count. The CPLC has all three under Jameel Yusuf’s leadership.

Soure: Dawn 28 July 1995

 

Guess who came for breakfast?

By Zubeida Mustafa

64-26-05-1992  A few weeks ago we had some jninvited guests for breakfast. They were masked and armed and the breakfast they took was most unhealthy — gulab jamuns and Coca Cola. They also took away whatever cash they could lay their hands on and some valuables — to use the crime reporter’s terminology. But the most precious thing they stole was my peace of mind.

If there is one word to describe my experience of this armed robbery, it is “bizarre”. Of course I also felt terrified, but that came much later.

It all happened early in the morning, which is the worst time for such unwholesome intrusions — not that other times are better. In the morning your senses are not fully awake — apart from the fact that one is not even properly dressed to receive visitors, including the unwanted ones. Continue reading “Guess who came for breakfast?”

Cities: Life in the world’s 100 largest metropolitan areas

By Zubeida Mustafa

The most significant modern day demographic phenomenon is the growing level of urbanisation in this century. In the year 1901 only one in ten of the global population lived in cities. By 2000, nearly half of the world’s people will.

54-03-05-1991b

What is more important than the level of urbanisation is its rapid pace. Take the case of Pakistan. In 44 years the urban population has grown from 15 per cent to 28 per cent of the total.

This change in demographic composition has had a profound impact on society, the national economy and the political culture of the country. It has also affected the quality of life in the cities in a big way because the municipal authorities have failed to keep pace with the growing population in providing the most basic civic amenities to the city-dwellers.

The economy has also not grown rapidly enough to provide jobs to the ever-widening stream of entrants to the urban labour market.

As a result, our cities have emerged as an explosive mass of humanity seething with discontent.

54-03-05-1991c

The Washington-based Population Crisis Committee recently studied the world’s hundred largest cities, ranging from Tokyo (population 28.7 million in 1989) to Pune, India (population 2.3 million).

The Committee looked into the key indicators which determine the quality of life in a city, namely, public safety, food costs, living space, housing standards, communications, education, public health, noise level, traffic and clean air. Cultural activities, employment and nutritional status were omitted because the data were either inconsistent or carried aclass or regional bias.

54-03-05-1991a

Pakistani cities cut a rather sorry figure in this survey. Karachi and Lahore which rank 22nd and 48th population-wise in the world are among the last fourteen in terms of urban living standards. Karachi is 87th and Lahore comes further down at 91st.

Karachi fares most poorly, according to the PCC report, on three counts: living space, communication and health. It could not have scored any less. Lahore’s score is equally bad in respect of the first two. Healthcare-wise it is better off but in terms of education it is worse.

The next two banes of Karachi life are noise pollution and traffic. Surprisingly, air pollution (on the basis of measurement of ozone concentration) is not considered to be too bad which makes one doubt the accuracy of UNEP’s standards that form the basis of the PCC’s assessment.

Another area which makes one sceptical about surveys that depend exclusively on government sources for their data is that of crime. Karachi emerges as a relatively safe place to live in, with only 5.7 murders per 100,000 people a year. Lahore is safer still.

Compared with Cape Town (64 per 100,000), Cairo (56) and Alexandria (49) which have the highest homicide rates, Pakistani cities might be rated as havens of security.

But those who live in perpetual fear in Karachi, know that the police are not always overly cooperative in recording FIRs for murder. Moreover there are crimes other than murder which also make life insecure.

What is certain is that the situation in our cities is definitely not better than what the PCC report calculates it to be. What is to be expected next? With an annual growth rate of seven per cent, Karachi’s problems will only multiply.

The city owes its expansion more to migration than natural increase. The people who are now moving over to the urban areas are being forced out of their homes by the growing impoverishment of the countryside.

The pattern of agrarian holding with its bias towards large landlords has left over four million rural households (nearly 24 million people) living below the poverty line because they are landless, are tenants on very small farms or their land has been fragmented because of the inheritance factor.

In the absence of land reforms, this pattern is unlikely to be broken. With no alternative source of employment generation in the rural areas, the exodus to the cities is there to stay.

Additionally the growing insecurity in the interior of Sindh born of rampant crime and lawlessness is uprooting people from the countryside.

What will be the future of this metropolis? If present trends are an indicator, Karachi will be a split city. On the one side will be the millions mired in grinding poverty. Three million of them live in kachchi abadis in conditions of crowding and insanitation. Their number will grow and by the turn of the century half of Karachi’s population will be living in illegal squatter settlements.

At the other end of the scale are the affluent classes. For them life in Karachi has its paradoxes. But their wealth enables them to buy all those facilities the civic authorities fail to provide — water (through bowsers), electricity (through generators), healthcare and education (through private hospitals, schools and universities) and transport (through their own fleet of cars). \

But their insensitivity to poverty notwithstanding, the rich cannot escape the reality of the misery of the have-not. Apart from the ugly sights of kachchi abadis creeping up to the walls of the mansions of the rich there is also the congestion on the roads which reduces the flow of traffic to a crawling 17 miles per hour in rush hours (according to the PCC report) and makes the rich rub shoulders with the poor, albeit in different modes of transport.

Most significant is the growing crime rate which should come as a stark reminder of the insidious erosion of urban life. In spite of the protection they seek to buy through private agencies and guards, the fact is that the affluent are more vulnerable to crime because of their wealth. This vulnerability is the price they have to pay for the comforts they can afford.

This class disparity, which is growing and will increase further with the government’s privatisation programme, has emerged as the hallmark of Karachi’s population.

The civic bodies’ failure to provide the basic amenities of life is giving rise to violent discontent. Water riots have become a normal feature of Karachi life in summer and the KESC staff has had to suffer physical attacks from a public suffering from the discomfort of prolonged power breakdowns.

Add to these the problems generated by unemployment and rising cost of food (even daal and roti, the poor man’s standard ware is exorbitantly priced) and you have an explosive mixture.

The ostentation of the rich only helps to fuel the seething dissatisfaction of the poor. The vulgar display of wealth by a few is bound to compound the unrest among the many, especially when they find themselves being progressively denied even those basic needs that they could take for granted as their right at one time.

Marx might be dead in Eastern Europe and dying in Soviet Russia. But the class conflict he wrote about continues to live and flourish in Third World cities bursting at the seams..

Source: Dawn 03-05-1991

 

 

Raising daughters: anguish of a mother

By Zubeida Mustafa

45-22-09-1989As the social fabric begins to disintegrate under the stress and strain of ethnic violence, crime and political fragmentation, one wonders who is the worst victim. There is no doubt that it is the youth of today. Denied the normal and stable social environment they need for their healthy mental, moral, intellectual and physical growth, the young suffer the most.

An impression has, however, gained ground that only boys are the main losers because when terror strikes they are generally the ones to fall before the bullets. They are believed to be the most exposed to the devastating impact of the instability and insecurity that prevails today. Girls, after all, are said to be protected in the safe sanctuary of their homes. Continue reading “Raising daughters: anguish of a mother”

Empty corridors

By Zubeida Mustafa

Universities are the future of the nation. The gloom in the university today looks like a forecast for the future of the country.

 Nothing sums up more poignantly the state of affairs at the University of Karachi and its ominous implications for society as these words uttered despairingly by an eminent educationist.

What should be perturbing is that the death-like stillness which has pervaded the campus in the last few weeks since it was abruptly closed for an indefinite period in mid-January has become a normal pattern of university life in Karachi. The NED and the professional colleges have not escaped the malaise of frequent unscheduled closures either. Continue reading “Empty corridors”