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Published Date: Aug 20, 2013

Call to revamp police, improve media ethics

The Islamabad incident orchestrated by Sikandar Malik and his family
has led to a new debate over the role of media in crisis situations and
the need to revamp the police on modern lines.

A seminar in this regard, titled ‘Armed Man Episode in Islamabad:
Lessons Learnt in Crisis Management and Ethical Media Practices’, was
held on Monday and was organised by the Sustainable Development Policy
Institute (SDPI).

It discussed the crisis response mechanisms in urban areas and the
capability of law enforcement agencies. Furthermore, it debated the way
the incident was televised to the masses, and the media was urged to
adopt ethical considerations while reporting a crisis situation.

Syed Kamal Shah, former secretary Interior, said institutions should
learn how to deploy resources and handle a situation through crisis
management techniques.

"But the behavior of the society towards the incident is strange.
This is because the public is neither sensitised nor educated about
their responsibility," he added.

Mr Shah said the police should have first cordoned off the area but
this task was totally ignored. “The absence of marksmen and sharp
shooters extended all the drama,” he said, adding that the media had
played an immature role.

"Running commentary and live coverage of the movement of elite forces had jeopardised the whole operation," he said.

The speakers also criticised the political interference in
operational matters, and experts called for institutional independence
and steps for improving the morale of the police force.

Afzal Ali Shigri, former Inspector General Police, said it was time
all stakeholders responded to such incidents and overcome their
weaknesses so that more maturity and responsibility could be developed
in dealing with similar situations.

He said the police force had a large number of trained staff at the
tactical and operational levels who were adequately equipped to deal
with such situations.

"On the other hand, the police lacks the resources to deal with
heavily armed onslaughts such as the recent jailbreak in D.I Khan or the
incidents in Swat before the army was called to restore the writ of the
state," Mr Shigri said.

He added that the provincial governments had failed to provide police
with the enforcement structure and suggested that the police department
should have a public relations wing which briefed media about various

Similarly, Ejaz Haider, senior anchor and analyst, said countering
terrorism in urban centers was a complex task which required a modern
professional approach, standard operating procedures and regular

"At the same time, Pemra (Pakistan Electronic Media Regularity
Authority) has failed to perform its role in controlling the media
hype," he added.

Meanwhile, analyst Dr Moeed Yousaf said the confused political
decisions, undue pressures and interference witnessed in the Islamabad
episode would increase the police indecisiveness in a future crisis

He said the government should prepare for counter terrorism activities which would be required in urban areas.

The experts
also agreed that capacity building of police was perceived as buying more
weapons, uniform and equipment, and modern procedures to deal with crises were
not being adopted.