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ISLAMABAD: 100 corrupt SHOs take oath never to take bribes

By Tariq Butt

More than 100 notoriously corrupt SHOs (station house officers) of six Punjab districts swore on the holy Quran in the months of June and July in the presence of several area notables and members of the civil society that they would never again take bribes.

And if any police officer was found involved in corruption, the concerned SHO would be held responsible for this offence. This was part of the “Gujranwala Model” introduced by Regional Police Officer Zulfikar Cheema in the Gujranwala Range comprising districts of Gujranwala, Gujrat, Sialkot, Hafizabad, Mandi Bahuddin and Narowal.

“The Punjab government has started implementing this model in the police department that has worked well in Gujranwala Range in controlling crime, curbing corruption and instilling a sense of security among the people at large,” a Punjab government official told The News.

He said that to start with, the Punjab government has ordered setting up of reconciliation committees to help sort out disputes, which land in police stations, increasing massive police involvement. “This process saves the complainant and his rival from costly litigation.”

The official said that moved by declarations of the SHOs, many people have also taken oath in different areas of these districts that they would not offer bribe to police and would also not lodge false cases. “This was a rare sight.”

He said that Inspector General of Police (IGP) Punjab Tariq Salim Dogar was keen to replicate the Gujranwala Model in other ranges as well in view of the positive results it has produced. When contacted, a senior leader of the Gujranwala Chamber of Commerce & Industries and prominent industrialist Khalid Chattha told The News that the incidence of kidnapping for ransom, which ruled this area some two years back, has now been totally eliminated.

“Some gangsters squeezed millions of rupees from industrialists by abducting their kith and kin. It also happened that a criminal got Rs50 million as ransom money in just one hit and fled Pakistan to live abroad in comfort because he got enough bucks for a luxurious life,” he said.

Industrialists, Chattha said, now have a sense of protection as the Gujranwala Model is working well. But at the same time, he said, what the police need to concentrate on is street crime, which is yet to be controlled to a large extent.

Qaisar Sindhu, member of the Punjab Assembly belonging to the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), told this correspondent by phone that dreaded criminal gangs, which used to rule supreme in the Gujranwala range two years back, have been eliminated and people have heaved a sigh of relief.

The MPA said although Zulfikar Cheema was the brother of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) MNA Justice (retd) Iftikhar Cheema and has been appointed by the PML-N’s Punjab government, he has not taken sides in dealing with criminals and corrupt elements. The Gujranwala Model has shown no discrimination, he said.

The sprawling Rukh Bela area on the banks of the Punjab River spread between the districts of Sialkot and Gujrat, which used to be a safe haven for kidnappers, murderers and thieves has been cleared of all sorts of criminals, who chose to flee the region falling in the Gujranwala range, an area notable Chaudhry Liaquat Ali told The News.

Police officers say that Gujranwala witnessed the worst situation of crime and law and order in years 2006-08. The entire region had become hostage in the hands of organised gangs of desperate criminals. Kidnapping for ransom had become an industry. Businessmen were shifting their businesses and properties to foreign countries out of fear and insecurity.

They said after assuming the office over two years ago, Zulfikar Cheema formed a team of officers and launched a war against dangerous criminals and defeated and eliminated them in a few months time. After achieving this goal, he focused on changing what is known as “Thana Culture” and introduced the Gujranwala Model, they said.

These officers said the problem was clearly defined that police station staff is corrupt and rude and they have to be made honest and courteous. The goal of transformation of police was set and the issue was discussed threadbare. One month was given to the officers for thinking and brainstorming. After that all the field officers came up with concrete proposals and in their light a strategy was evolved and the measures to be taken were identified and prioritised. All techniques including warnings, punishments, inducement and motivation were used to change the thinking and outlook of police.

Under the Gujranwala model, first of all refresher courses were conducted for SHOs, Moharrirs (police station clerks), investigators and deputy officers. SPs, ASPs, reputed SHOs, psychologists and religious scholars delivered lectures to the participants. Some SHOs known for their honesty were called to talk to their colleagues. They were forceful and convincing when they told other SHOs that an honest SHO can run the police station easily. Refresher courses were followed by constant and continuous visits by senior police officers to the other police stations for sensitisation, counselling and motivation. Message of zero tolerance for corruption was communicated loudly and clearly. It was decided to remove the deadwood. As a result, many incorrigible Thanedars and investigating officers were dismissed from service and some were even arrested for indulgence in corruption.

According to this model, through their talks some religious scholars including noted Maulana Tariq Jamil narrated stories of extremely simple living of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), which proved moving and inspiring. All these efforts proved useful to inculcate in the minds of police officers hatred for corruption and desire honest earning. The entire staff of police stations and police officers repeatedly and publicly took oath on the Holy Quran that they would neither demand nor accept illegal gratification in future.

When contacted, Cheema told The News that his message to police was very clear: those who want to be in police uniform must give up corrupt practices. Those who do not refrain from corruption would be thrown out of the department. They would either go home or to the prison. Only the honest and brave persons are entitled to put on the uniform.”

He said that under the Gujranwala model, in a bid to make police stations corruption free, welfare problems of the force were adequately addressed. Financial and logistical problems identified by SHOs were also taken care of. New residential barracks and clean and tiled bathrooms were constructed for police station staff. Residential flats have been constructed for sub-inspectors and inspectors. General monetary rewards were given to the police officials. Proper residential accommodations have been provided to the SHOs for the first time after 1947 leaving no room or excuse for them to resort to unfair means. “Muhafiz Markets” have been constructed to generate additional funds and resources to be spent for medical treatment of the family members of police constables. Cheema said nothing was impossible if one were determined to achieve a goal.

Source: The News

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