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The Case For Community Policing In Balochistan And The Levies Force

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Mir Saadat Baloch argues that Balochistan Levies Force is vital for the province and the government needs to reconsider its decision of merging the force into the police. The Levies Force monitors 90% area of the largest province of Pakistan. 

Civil society, citizens and faction of police officers in Pakistan wants to see policing evolve into a public friendly and citizen responsive service and wants to learn about the ways and means through which community policing can be employed to proactively adopt root cause of problems in the society.

Community policing is no longer a distinctive approach, but a wide-ranging controlling philosophy that could incorporate diverse structural schemes.

Engaging a comprehensive range of community is part of the most vital features of community-policing, implying that law enforcement agencies must strive hard to build rapport with the public. This way through partnerships and methodical use of problem solving, according to the context, tackles the root causes of the problem. The emphasis of community policing is on developing partnerships with the community not only for tackling criminality but also for addressing societal disorder and fear of crime prevalent in the community.

The idea of community policing has drew increasing attention and popularity in Pakistan in recent years. Although community policing is not being widely implemented across the country, but with the passage of time it is getting comparatively better governmental patronage and support in Sindh and Punjab. 

According to a report by the Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives, diverse community policing initiatives are undertaken across Pakistan. It is surprising that the report was unable to mention the oldest community-policing initiative of Pakistan, Balochistan Levies Force (BLF). Undoubtedly, unawareness of such research organizations towards the problem of Balochistan is reaping abhorrence and discontent among the local people.

When the rest of Pakistan is advocating the case for community policing, the government of Balochistan is proposed to do away with the idea of community policing. Following the terrorist strikes in the province, the Balochistan cabinet approved to shift Gwadar, Lasbela and Quetta status from B to A areas, which meant that the police would be in charge of security instead of Balochistan Levies forces. ‘A’ areas are those where police are responsible for maintaining law and order, while ‘B’ areas are those where Levies perform such duties.

The government claims that this is just one small step in the right direction of protecting the provincial capital, the major CPEC route through Lasbela and Gwadar from repeated terrorist strikes, and they intend to be expanding it to the entire province. It is pertinent to mention that the police are procrastinating to take charge of Levies police stations and are demanding more resources before conducting duties in these areas.

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Levies operate in 23 out of 30 revenue districts of the province. The government argues their case that with 23,132 poorly equipped and trained personnel of the Levies are in charge of controlling 90 per cent areas of Balochistan. They undergo little formal and specialized training to manage major functions like manning prisons, anti smuggling role, recovery of land revenue and even patrolling highways. They recruit against the word of tribal elders.

To ascertain if the arguments by the government of Balochistan are grounded in reality or not, one must analyse the performance of Balochistan Levies Force holistically. Sir Robert Sandeman commissioned BLF in 1887 for the purpose of levying and collection of taxes for British Raj and for maintaining law and order. Area wise, the force covers the 90% of Balochistan but population wise it tackles 48% of the population.  Previously, in 2003 Levies Force was merged into the Balochistan Police Force.

However, it was reinstated in 2010 through Balochistan Levies Force Act. Now the force has the following functions: Maintenance of law & order; Investigation of all criminal offenses and cases with respect to PPC; Protection of human lives, properties, vital installations and mega projects; Collection and sharing of intelligence with other LEAs; Active and prompt response in terms of relief and rehabilitation during natural disasters; identifying criminals and initiating criminals proceeding against them to ensure justice.

In 2018-19 police was allocated 55% of the budget compared to 27% allocation to BLF, despite the fact that levies force monitors 90% of Bolochistan. For 1 square KM of police area there is one policeman compares to levies that has one personnel for every 14 square KM. Secondly, for every 258 persons there are one levies personnel and in police area for every 159 persons there are one policeman available. Now if we compare the crime figures for last three years in police area there had been 6178 crime compare to 1974 crime in levies area. This clearly shows that despite all the shortcomings BLF is performing better than the police in controlling crime.

The leadership at BLF is striving for improvement and in this regard, they have established and revamped eight wings. They have established an investigation wing to improve the criminal prosecution and investigation and 109 IO’s has been trained at the Judicial Academy. The intelligence wing is being recognized under the supervision of the army.

A quick response force is set up to conduct IBO’s and assist other LEA’s. 30 Levies personnel have been trained from NRTC to run the communication and IT wing in a more qualified manner.

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The counter terrorism wing is formed in the light of National Action Plan and the Pakistan Army is training 750 personnel. 285 personnel were trained in diffusing explosives and saving precious human lives; they are working in a bomb disposal squad.

1355 jobs were created for the special socio-economic protection unit that would be deputed to protect vital installations and for security of mega projects in Balochistan. Finally, 1561 posts were made to establish the CPEC wing that is responsible for carrying out security duties on the CPEC route.

This implies that the argument for conversion of ‘B area’ into ‘A area’ is based on impulsive and disjoint decision-making, where the evidence is not grounded in reality. BLF is a vibrant force for Balochistan because they can provide indigenous intelligence promptly. Their cost of policing is much smaller than all the other LEA’s. After the current improvements in the force it has become a unique force that is a blend of modern techniques and the tribal community. Most importantly, this force plays an active role in mediating, inter and intra tribal disputes/. BLF is already following alternative dispute resolution (ADR) for many decades, whereas Pakistan is still in the process of building a comprehensive ADR environment. ADR is always strong for the community for the following reasons. No legal representation has a mandate in the ADR. This removes the mischief of some opportunistic lawyers, who prolong hearing to increase their revenue from clients.

This speeds up the resolution of the dispute and conveys actual relief to the parties involved, preventing new cases from joining those, which have been reduced to mere statistics, unlikely of achieving tangible resolution. Moreover, in the absence of a judge or a lawyer, parties are more likely to interact freely, be less hostile to each other and be more amenable to suggestions of the mediators.     

These facts clearly imply that Balochistan Levies Force is vital for Balochistan and the government needs to reconsider its decision of merging the force into the police. It monitors 90% area of the largest province of Pakistan.

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