In 2002, then President General Pervez Musharraf introduced laws to devolve political power by transferring more control to local governments, ostensibly to promote democracy and improve governance and accountability. As an integral part of this initiative, the government promulgated the Police Order of 2002 to replace the British-era Penal Code of 1861, depoliticize law enforcement, and make the police more accountable to the public. However, in the eight years since it was issued, the government has systematically undermined the Police Ordinance by making 54 amendments, some of which contradict the spirit and principles of the order. Improving security and rule of law is one ofthe principle areas of concern of average citizens. The Police Order of 2002 has not yet become a permanent law through an act of parliament and has yet to be implemented in good faith.
A variety of factors such as low pay, poor training, and political control of transfers and key appointments has eroded the professionalism and public service ethos of the police. Rather than serve citizens, the police have often been used as tools of intimidation against political opponents. This intimidation takes many forms, including extortion, excessive use of force, arbitrary arrest and detention, muzzling of free speech, and curtailing of freedom of assembly. This has been especially true in Pakistan's largest city, Karachi, which has a history of violence between rival political factions which continues today. In fact, Karachi has witnessed an alarming increase in targeted killings of political activists. Allover Pakistan, the police have been implicated in human rights violations against women, children, and ethnic and religious minorities.
This atmosphere of impunity has a highly corrosive effect on the development of democracy in Pakistan. As long as citizens view the police as agents of partisan political elites or an abuser of human rights, the concepts of rule of law and public accountability that underpin democratic governance lose legitimacy in the eyes ofthe people. The lack of confidence in local law enforcement and judicial bodies to deliver justice is a major reason that a significant portion of Pakistan's population, especially in rural areas of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (formerly the Northwest Frontier Province), demanded the instatement of Sharia law, which many people equate with good governance. To combat this erosion of public trust, Karachibased Shehri-Citizens for a Better Environment (Shehri-CBE) works to strengthen the capacity of law enforcement to respond to human rights violations and to improve the public accountability of the police through greater citizen-police interaction.