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Role and Structure of the Security Forces

Before independence, the security forces of British India were primarily concerned with the maintenance of law and order but were also called on to perform duties in support of the political interests of the government. The duties of the police officer in a formal sense were those of police the world over: executing orders and warrants; collecting and communicating upward intelligence concerning public order; preventing crime; and detecting, apprehending, and arresting criminals. These duties were specified in Article 23 of the Indian Police Act of 1861, which (together with revisions dating from 1888 and the Police Rules of 1934), is still the basic document for police activity in Pakistan.

The overall organization of the police forces remained much the same after partition. Except for centrally administered territories and tribal territories in the north and northwest, basic law and order responsibilities have been carried out by the four provincial governments. The central government has controlled a series of specialized police agencies, including the Federal Investigative Agency, railroad and airport police forces, an anticorruption task force, and various paramilitary organizations such as the Rangers, constabulary forces, and the Frontier Corps. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto established the Federal Security Force and gave it wide-ranging powers, but the force was abolished when the military regime of Zia ul-Haq seized power in 1977.

Under the constitution, criminal law and procedure are listed as subjects that are the concurrent responsibility of the central and provincial governments. The federal government, however, has extensive power to assert its primacy, especially in any matter relating to national security. The police forces of the four provinces are independent, and there is no nationwide integration; nevertheless, the federal minister of the interior provides overall supervision.

Senior positions in the police are filled from the Police Service of Pakistan (PSP). The Police Service of Pakistan is not an operational body; rather, it is a career service similar to the Civil Service of Pakistan, from which officers are assigned to the provincial services or, on rotation, to central government agencies where their skills are needed. Recruitment to the PSP is through an annual national examination that is common for several centrally recruited services, including the civil service and the foreign and the customs services. Because the PSP is a relatively well-paid and powerful service, it attracts students who rank highest in the selection process. Successful candidates receive two years of training at the Police Training College in Sihala, near Islamabad, and are then assigned to duty with one of the provincial forces.

The PSP is overwhelmingly male in composition, but the October 1993 return of Benazir Bhutto to power may introduce some bold changes. In January 1994, Benazir announced the opening of Pakistan's first all-female police station. About fifty female officers of the Rawalapindi police station will supplement Punjab's provincial police force of 85,000 men. As part of her campaign for equal rights for women, Benazir also promised to place women in 10 percent of top police posts, to appoint women to the Supreme Court, and to establish special courts for cases against women.

The senior officer ranks in the police service are the inspector general, who heads a provincial police force, and a deputy inspector general, who directs the work of a division or "range," which coordinates police work within various parts of a province. There are also assistant inspectors general in each province. The principal focus of police activity is at the district level, which is headed by a superintendent, and the subdistrict level, usually under the direction of an assistant or deputy superintendent. The latter is not necessarily drawn from the Police Service of Pakistan. At each level, police officials report to the political or civil service heads of the respective administrative level; the inspectors general, however, have direct links to the federal Ministry of Interior. Larger municipalities have their own police forces, but these are responsible to the provincial structure of police authority.

The great majority of police personnel are assigned to subdistricts and police stations and are not at the officer level. Their ranks are inspector, sergeant, subinspector, assistant subinspector, head constable, and constable. As one descends the rank hierarchy, education levels, skills, and motivation decrease precipitously--even dramatically at the lower levels. Although constables are supposed to have a modest amount of education, they are paid only the wages of an unskilled laborer (about US$40 per month), and a head constable--the height of aspiration for many policemen--is paid only at the level of a semiskilled worker.

Police in Pakistan are generally unarmed. For crowd control, police are trained to use a lathi, a five-foot wooden staff that may be weighted. Lathi are used either to hold crowds back or as clubs. Tear gas and firearms are available, and police formations hunting down armed bands of robbers, or dacoits, have adequate firepower available.

Data as of April 1994

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Pakistan Table of Contents