Privatizing Police in Pakistan?
Privatization wave is not limited to Pakistan alone. Prompted by growing security concerns and faced with huge budget deficits, the United States is seeing increasing privatization of security functions, often referred to as "dual law enforcement". Gated communities patrolled by private security guards are popping up all over the United States. Privately operated prisons are also growing, along with private police forces in America.
The US wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have seen new highs in levels of privatization in intelligence and combat support roles. The number of US contractors working for the US military and the CIA in the Afghanistan and Pakistan region exceeds the total strength of the US troops and CIA personnel, according to estimates by Jimmy Scahill who has researched and written extensively about Blackwater (aka Xe Services). The presence of over 80,000 US military and intelligence contractors in Afghanistan and Pakistan makes the level of privatization of war unprecedented. US is reportedly employing private security contractors provided by the American private military company (PMC) Dyncorp to carry out intelligence and security operations in Pakistan.
Pakistan's neighbor India, too, has hired, armed and trained private militias like Salwa Judum in its war against the Maoists in Chhattisgarh and other Indian states. There have been allegations in the past two years of rape, murder and extortion by Judum and other such private armies backed by the state.
Sweden based security firm Securitas is emerging as one of the largest private security contractors in the world. Securitas has acquired companies to become a player in many countries from the Czech Republic to Mexico and Morocco.
Another private global security company G4S Wackenhut has presence in Pakistan, with its headquarters located in Karachi. It provides services such as armed guards, cash services, security systems, facility management, research & collection services, canine services, consultancy & risk management, to its Pakistani clients.
“These recent acquisitions (by private security corporations) reflect opportunities created by the current economic crisis. Global security providers like Securitas aspire to continual global growth and expansion, and their biggest profit margins are generally in emerging markets. As profits come under pressure in the more mature markets of Europe and North America, a global acquisition strategy becomes even more important,” Professor Rita Abrahamsen and Professor Michael C Williams of the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Ottawa, told ISN Security Watch.
Local government services are being cut in many areas in the United States. California city of Tracy has decided to charge residents for responding to emergency calls. Residents can pay a $48 voluntary fee for the year which allows them to call 9-1-1 as many times as necessary. Or, there's the option of not signing up for the annual fee. Instead, they will be charged $300 if they make a call for help.
At a recent debate organized by Intelligence Squared, the attendees voted in the affirmative for the motion that "California is the First Failed State", because of its inability to provide basic services to its residents, like those in Tracy, California.
Here's a tongue-in-cheek guest post by freelance writer Syed F. Hussaini. It pushes the envelope by proposing privatization of police functions for improving the deteriorating law and order situation in Pakistan:
Pakistanis were heartbroken to see The National Geographic casually listing their country as a failed state in its September, 2009, issue.
There is no calibrated scale to measure how bad is the breakdown of law and order in Pakistan. One convenient barometer can be the personal experience. How many people an ordinary Joe knows who had been a victim of a recent crime? This simple, first hand approach would tell us that the gravity of the problem has reached a level where almost every single individual has a recent story to tell of how he himself or, a family member or friend, became a victim of a crime. It was not so in the 1970s. Back then, incidents of pickpocketing aside, a common man had to search his mind hard to think of somebody he personally knew as a crime victim.
The inability of the state to maintain law and order created a market which has since been growing steadily. Private security companies provide armed guards at the homes of the rich who now travel in convoys of sport utility vehicles loaded with gunmen. Private citizens are dispensing ready justice on the streets of big Pakistani towns burning robbery suspects alive. And, security service providers appear to be working hard to catch up with the enormous needs of this vast market of 173 million consumers.
It is not the first time the private sector is seen marching into the domain of the state and bringing in some positive change. Once upon a time, you needed good connections to get a telephone connection in Pakistan. Or, you had to pay tens of thousands of rupees as bribe to the government officials at the telephone department to have a phone line brought to your home or office.
Things changed. The winds of privatization blew away the monopoly of the telephone department and the advent of the cell phone sent armies of sales personnel chasing the consumers. Overnight, the culture of bribes disappeared from the telephone industry; at least, at the consumer end. Pakistanis would love to see a similar change in the law and order business.
If a guy goes to a police station in Pakistan to report that his car had been stolen, he has to pay thousands of rupees as bribe to have his complaint registered in the precinct records. He is robbed twice, unless he has connections.
Newspapers report robberies committed by police officers. Legend goes that the top police officials auction off the precincts to subordinate officers. The highest bidder is appointed the station house officer as the auction proceeds precinct by precinct.
Gangs run gambling, narcotics, alcohol, prostitution and other illicit businesses and pay the police off to look the other way. The police make additional money by extorting side-walk vendors, transport operators or the law-abiding motorists.
Then, there are the walk-ins seeking justice. They come in to report they had been robbed at gunpoint out on the street or at home, of their wallets, cell phones, motorcycles, automobiles or other possessions. At the precinct, everybody has to pay to have a report registered. That is good, sound, multi-billion-rupee business.
This huge revenue would be the greatest incentive for the private sector to jump into the arena of law-enforcement. Privately-owned companies can set up offices right next to the police stations and start registering First Investigation Reports (F.I.R.) for a fee. Competition between these companies would guarantee fair prices for this service.
Armed with proper government licenses, permits and authority and escorted by lawyers, these private companies can take these reports to the police precinct and have them entered into the government records.
The extortionist police officers at the precinct would lose their leverage over the lone, helpless, scared and stressed out crime victim trying to file an F.I.R. He would never set foot in their den. The police officers would think twice before they mess with the representatives of a licensed, multi-billion-rupee law-enforcement company with its corporate offices adjacent to the interior ministry in Islamabad and at the four provincial capitals.
These private companies in Pakistan can bring some law and order back to the streets of rough neighborhoods by arrays of surveillance cameras and patrols paid for by the crime-weary residents and businesses.
Such companies can set up competent crime scene investigation units and modern forensic and DNA testing labs. Their possible clients would be the families of missing or kidnapped persons and the insurance companies trying to recover stolen property, like automobiles, insured by them.
Pakistan's political leaders are mostly feudal lords or tribal chiefs. It is almost a master-slave relationship between the elected politician and the common man. A government job in Pakistan is a license to steal and extort. It is a parasite-host relationship between a government official and the common man.
However, the relationship between the industrial-business class and the common man in Pakistan is essentially a retailer-consumer one; in essence, an interactive business relationship. It is not an oppressively lopsided master-slave or parasite-host relationship. That is a great qualitative difference, a beacon of hope and solid ground to start working together for a change in the country to bring back the rule of law for mutual benefit.
Another common factor between the industrial-business class and the common man is the fear of being kidnapped for ransom. As the poor common man walks down the street looking over his shoulder, the poor rich man is firmly denied the simple pleasure of a stroll around his own mansion. The rich generate more ransom revenue, run more risk of being kidnapped and live in more fear. They, too, would like to leave their palaces by themselves any hour of day or night without any armed escort and just walk up to the roadside restaurant next block for an ice-cream or, a cup of tea, the way they did back in the 1970s.
True administration of justice, the firmest pillar of good government, is a related issue. Pakistani courts are overwhelmed with a backlog of unresolved cases. There are instances where the complainant and the respondent both have long been dead, killing the case itself. The courts do not know this because they do not have the resources to sift through their backlog for dead cases. There are cases where two parties are just looking for mediation, a fair adjudication, a lawful compromise. Buried in the backlog, the courts are unable to provide even this simple judicial service.
However, government-licensed private courts can provide these simple but essential judicial services swiftly. It would drastically reduce the backlog at the state courts. With their performance and quality of adjudication, these private courts may prompt the state courts to improve their own image.
Over decades, private companies moved into education, water supply and health care as the state failed to perform in these sectors. Now is the time for Pakistani tycoons to move into the business of maintaining law and order and administration of justice.
Free enterprise and competition compel the cell phone companies in Pakistan to offer the best price and the best service to their poorest consumers.
The market forces would compel the private sector to guarantee true administration of justice in Pakistan.
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