Community Policing Is Vital To Promote Interfaith Harmony In Pakistan

Community Policing Is Vital To Promote Interfaith Harmony In Pakistan
Pakistan is facing multifaceted problems like extremism, violence, hate and injustice for last few decades which has not only polluted its national image but also defined some new roles for state actors. The responsibility to maintain peace and harmony has always been the mandate of states which not only protect the rights of all people but also establish rules to involve all citizens in such processes. These rules juxtapose citizens from different backgrounds, races and faiths, in different peace-making processes.

Being an Islamic state, the constitution of Pakistan allows the freedom of religious diversity and peace in society according to the Islamic core values. But unfortunately, some people have misinterpreted these values for their own and tried to limit religious philosophy of equality, peace and liberty. In such turmoil condition the government of Pakistan has introduced different measures to promote peace and harmony in society.

Different proactive measures have been taken for inclusion of peace and harmony in society but the desired results, yet seem like a dream. For this purpose, the state has tried to sensitize the most effective segment of society i.e., Ulama (religious scholars) as the research shows that the people associated with religion affect the common masses more than any other stake holder. And the country like Pakistan is considered as the only Islamic country that emerged on a pure Islamic concept and this notion gives strength to a specific creed which can either use religion for peace or for conflict.

In such circumstances, the government has tried to keep things in a balance by introducing a separate ministry for interfaith harmony which can neutralize the stereotypical views of people regarding different faiths. This ministry is working effectively in whole country for peaceful co-existence and interfaith harmony. Punjab has also introduced an interfaith policy to strengthen the cause. Different committees have been constituted for the promotion of interfaith harmony and peace building. The presence of structures like peace committees at district level reflects that religious leaders and district government particularly police department work together to care their community. But even after the prevalence of such committees and procedures still we need some other approaches to make interfaith harmony possible.

Police has been considered a powerful institute in sub-continent for last two centuries. Engaging police in promoting interfaith harmony is one of such approaches that can affect the present state of affairs. The strategy of community policing can be an effective philosophy as it focuses on developing relationships with community and police tries its best to involve community in all situations. By engaging communities in all types of conflicts, police use the core workable strategies of the same population for the same geographical area that increase the effectiveness and ultimately settle the turbulent situations, down.

Abid Hussain, a police officer was hopeful when talking on role of police in promoting interfaith harmony. He said “I think we have no competitor of police as the department has already started working on community policing in different areas of policing and if we engage police for interfaith harmony, it will be doing its duty for which it is being paid but the results will be positive”. Another police officer, Waqas Ahmad spoke powerfully on importance of worship places. While he was talking with scholars he said “I have noticed that when an SHO call meeting in a mosque and listen the complaints of the locals, it seems as the people speak truth in such places and in front of their Imam and the local chief of police. So, religious places can be used to convey strong massages to community in presence of religious leaders”.

The emerging models of conflict resolution demands a strong partnership between police and communities to be more influential and inclusive.  This model demands sincere efforts at the end of police to make the communities ready to accept each other by involving the key state actors of the society. This can be done very effectively through innovative inclusion of diverse knowledge and skills of police officers along with the religious scholars of different faiths and local politicians.

This model has already been applied in different areas of the country for bridging the gap between police and the common people. For instance, in Sargodha it was started by district police in 2011 after establishing CPLC and then Punjab Highway Patrol took a step further when a PHP citizens’ committee was established. In both cases a close coordination was observed which proved the saying of Robert Peel, “The police are the public and the public are the police”.

In third world countries like Pakistan, the interfaith harmony has been taking a focused attention of all stake holders. Therefore, they are thinking for rapid and effective and among such turbulent condition, police can play a central role because at local level it is easy for police to engage scholars and politicians for initiation of an inter-faith and intra-faith dialogue. Undoubtedly, there are few opportunities for police officers to get training to build their capacity for addressing religious prejudices and discrimination by promoting cultural and religious diversity but if political will prevails, it would not be proved an arduous task.

With spurt of diversified conflicts and crimes, policing has become more difficult and challenging and everyone is aware of shortage of man power in this department but the need of the hour is to train police officer in such a way that they should improve their professional skills and improve professionalism so that they can use such skills and professional knowledge to promote peace in society and as the interfaith conflicts prove more threatening therefore by using the strategies of community policing, the officers can play a vital role in bringing the faiths under one roof and can promote diversity.

Muhammad Zain ul Abidin is Lecturer of Criminology at University of Sargodha, Pakistan.