PESHAWAR, Nov 26: Inadequacies of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s criminal justice system have compounded the prevalent security crisis rendering restoration of peace too difficult a task to achieve unless the provincial government gets its act together, according to experts.
During a day-long conference here on Tuesday, the experts said the provincial police were ill-equipped and needed training; the prison department continued to act as it used to do in the 19th century; the prosecution wing lacked prosecutors; the courts were less effective because of poor investigation by ‘incompetent’ investigation officers, and the prevalent security crisis would require more than quick-fix solutions.
The conference titled ‘peace building through strengthening criminal justice system in conflict-affected Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’, brought together a diversified group of officers of the provincial government, businessmen, lawyers, academicians, and elected representatives, discussing peace crisis and making recommendations for measures to address it.
Earlier, speaking as the chief guest in the opening session, provincial health minister Shaukat Yousufzai said security crisis had aggravated due to weaknesses of police department.
“We fought a war for 10 years but did not find a way-out for ourselves,” he said.
“Our civil intelligence gathering system and policing need improvement and our police stations have weakened.”
In response to calls by civil servants for reforming and revamping the criminal justice system in the province, MNAs Shehryar Afridi and Hamidul Haq from Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, the ruling party in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, said peace restoration depended on showing fear of the divine power and commitment on part of civil servants to diligently do duty instead of serving self interest.
Mr Toru made a candid analysis of the prevalent security crisis in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, linked it with the Russian invasion of Afghanistan and the 9/11 attacks in the US and weaknesses in the criminal justice system, and proposed remedial steps.
“It’s not all (finding a solution through negotiations only) that simple, a mix of both – the negotiations and use of military option – will have to be applied to permanently resolve the crisis,” said the retired senior police officer.
Explaining the complexity of the situation, he said new Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan chief Fazlullah was a paid militant commander, who ran a madrassa in Afghanistan.
Similarly, Maulvi Faqir Mohammad, another TTP commander wanted by Pakistan, he added, was also a ‘strategic asset’ of the Afghan government.
“We have strategic assets of our own like Haqqanis. Similarly, the Afghans have also developed their strategic assets to use against us,” he said.
Mr Toru, however, said negotiations were the best option. “Political terrorism is easy to overcome, but terrorism with religious connotations is difficult to be subsided as they (terrorists) do everything in the name of God.”
The conference, held under the auspices of a joint collaboration of the provincial government’s home and tribal affairs department and the United Nations Development Programme, also included two panel discussions.
In the first panel discussion on ‘overview of the organisational capacities for conflict prevention and peace building’, the representatives of the government entities forming the criminal justice system put across their shortcomings and achievements. Some were more open about their departments’ weaknesses than others.
Khalid Abbas of the prison department said jailbreaks in Bannu and Dera Ismail Khan might not have happened if Khyber Pakhtunkhwa had a high security prison for militants.
He said the buildings of prisons in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa were dilapidated and that they were meant for ordinary criminals and not for hardened militants, in some cases ordinary criminals got radicalised by mixing with militants and they joined the militant ranks to become more forceful in protests to prisons authorities.
“We (staff of prison department) are ordinary people, but are dealing with an extraordinary situation,” Mr Abbas said. He called for training of prison staff, provision of modern equipment to them, and establishment of a special force for prisons and a high security prison in the province.
DIG Alam Shinwari explained shortcomings of police and efforts afoot to overcome the problems aiming to improve the force’s operational capabilities.
He said the intelligence unit of the provincial police needed immediate attention and the investigation branch was also fraught with inadequacies, undermining the utility of the criminal justice system.
Arif Khan Khattak, the director general prosecution, said legally, he was bound to assign at least one prosecutor to each of the 368 criminal courts set up in the province but 220 prosecutors were working against 267 sanctioned posts.
Hayat Ali Shah, the director general of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Judicial Academy, pointed out that the criminal justice system could not be effective unless investigation officers performed their job with due diligence.
“I don’t have words to explain. The most incompetent people are sent to the investigation unit; investigation officers investigate to please their bosses and they don’t investigate to solve the problems,” he said.