AJK police in pitiable condition for want of funds

18 April 2008
The Dawn
Tariq Naqash

Muzaffarabad: While the influx of outsiders coupled with unusual surge in crime in the capital of Azad Jammu and Kashmir after the Oct 2005 earthquake has necessitated provision of better, if not the best, facilities to the town’s police, the situation on the ground is however altogether otherwise, it has been observed. The city police station, which caters to the rural and urban population of 200,000 along the left bank of River Neelum and right bank of River Jhelum, is one big and glaring example of the pitiable working conditions of the lower tiers of police and the alleged indifference of the high-ups towards their problems and pressing requirements. Two and a half years after the quake, the station is still functioning in the badly damaged building in the central part of the ravaged town with one flimsy tent, pitched on its courtyard, serving as the office of muharrar and other staff where the effects of the harsh weathers are felt to the hilt. Enumerating its problems, sources told Dawn that the station was provided with two pick-ups but both, being nearly two decades old, were literally a nuisance rather than a facility. “One vehicle is completely out of order for the past two weeks whereas the other is also defective and fails to move, sometimes in the most emergent situations,” an insider said. Due to the unavailability of vehicles, he said, transportation of under-trial prisoners between the station, central jail and the courts was a great problem for its officials. The main prison is located around 10 kilometres away from the city police station whereas the district courts are also at a distance of one kilometre. The officials who are detailed to produce the prisoners before the courts or get them medically examined under the court orders are always in a fix as to how to carry out the job in the absence of transport facilities. “It is ironical that while the top government officials whose job does not involve field visits are possessing state of the art vehicles while those who genuinely need proper transport are virtually denied the same,” remarked a disgruntled police official, pleading anonymity. According to sources, another big issue which the police were facing was shortage and mostly denial of even the sanctioned quantity of fuel, thanks to a dubious system whereby fuel chits are obtained by the police stations from the SSP office. In the event of emergency, such as occurrence of a heinous crime or fatal accident, a hell lot of time was wasted in obtaining the fuel chit from the SSP office to fill in the mostly empty fuel tanks, sources said. The monthly fuel ceiling of the city police station was 500 litres but last month it had been given 200 litres, according to sources. “With worn out transport and scant fuel allocation we are supposed to contain the crime rate and chase and apprehend the criminals using sophisticated vehicles,” said another official. “This is an ostrich like approach of the higher authorities,” he regretted. Sources said that unavailability of transport and requisite fuel would trigger corruption as it was difficult for almost all of them to bear the transportation costs from their pocket. Interestingly, a police official was reported to have written to his high ups that if the defective vehicle, allotted to him, caused his death, police department would be responsible for it. Sources said that prior to quake the city police station was receiving a contingent of 75 reserve police personnel every day for watch and ward duties but that number had greatly reduced although the crime rate had gone up after the quake.