Two good cops
“Why isn’t Thamel, which is at the heart of Nepali tourism, open 24 hours a day?” The questioner was visibly angry at the government’s inability to do so. The event was a public hearing in Thamel of top cops and administrators of Kathmandu district on a recent Friday evening. The incoming chief of Nepal Police, Sarbendra Khanal, who was instrumental in making Thamel a no-vehicle zone, must have heard this question many times. It is just a sliver of the immense challenge he will face.
Khanal takes over as the Inspector General of Nepal Police as the country is making a difficult transition to a federal structure. Nepal Police, which is still highly centralized, is struggling with this drastic change. The number of crimes this fiscal is up, by eight percent from the previous year, with murders and rapes accounting for most of the increase. There are now an average of over three rapes in Nepal every day. It falls on Khanal to enhance public trust in his institution, to sincerely implement the slogan of “Police My Friend”. A trusted police force is also an effective one.
You wouldn’t bet against Khanal. After all, he has had a stellar career. His investigative skills were amply demonstrated when he looked into and led the successful prosecution of national footballers enmeshed in match-fixing. Besides his investigative skills, Khanal was as noted for his tough line against notorious dons. Khanal, who had received top marks in the internal evaluation of Nepal Police to choose the new police chief, is one of the rare Inspector Generals whose appointment was based largely on merit. This will, hopefully, set a strong precedent.
It would have been better still had Khanal been first appointed the Assistant Inspector General (AIG), the second highest rank, and promoted to Inspector General after some time. But as all serving AIGs had retired at the same time, the government had no option but to choose from among the third-highest ranking Deputy Inspector Generals (DIGs), Khanal among them. To ensure that there is no such void in the future, and that the next police chief is well trained as an administrator, the provision of compulsory retirement after 30 years of service has to be modified. The sooner the better.
The good news is that merit has prevailed over politicking in the appointment of the Nepal Police chief, as well as the new chief of the Armed Police Force, which is now led by Shailendra Khanal, another competent hand. This bodes well in these uncertain times.
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