Consistently ranked as one of the most corrupt institutions in the country, Nepal Police does not inspire much confidence among common folks, which is a tragedy. During these tumultuous times when the country is without a legislature and the credentials of the governing coalition are under question, a clean and functioning police force that is able to protect their lives and property would perhaps make people retain a smidgen of hope in the government machinery. But one after another corruption scandal involving Nepal Police is doing just the opposite: adding to people´s sense of total statelessness. The latest exhibit was the Oct. 6 arrest of an Indian national from Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) on the charge of trying to smuggle out Rs. 12.4 million in foreign currencies. Later investigations revealed that a Senior Superintendent of Police, the deputy-security chief at the airport, was involved in the botched smuggling attempt. A Deputy Inspector General, whose involvement in the Oct. 6 event is yet to be established, has been transferred from his post of the chief of airport security.
These were troubling signs for a widely discredited institution. Then on Friday police seized Rs 21.4 million worth of Euros being smuggled out of the country from TIA. The security personnel who intercepted the cash hidden inside a polythene bag certainly deserve some praise. This is perhaps indicative of the heightened security measures put in place following the Oct. 6 incident. But the arrest of the culprit in the first case on Oct. 6 owed more to luck than good policing. Apparently, the airport authorities had received a bomb hoax, which made them recheck all of the passenger baggage. This included the bag filled with illegal foreign currency notes that had, incredibly, cleared most security checks at TIA. Following the incident, the police have rightly replaced their personnel at the TIA. But that is not enough. Unless there is an unmistakable message from the police that anyone involved in such shady deals in uniform would be liable for harsh criminal action, cases like the Oct. 6 smuggling attempt are bound to be repeated. It would be dangerous to send out a message that a police official involved in such a grave crime will be liable to no more than departmental action.
There is another worrying concern. The news of lax security arrangements at the country´s only international airport will inspire little faith among our foreign friends, particularly our big neighbors, that their interests will not be compromised by the vulnerable security arrangements at TIA. The fact that criminals can penetrate the supposedly foolproof arrangements with ease could instigate all kinds of unscrupulous, anti-national elements to exploit the country´s lax security arrangements. Friday´s seizure of a big cache of Euros offers some hope that things are finally starting to improve. But only if Nepal Police is able to get to the bottom of the Oct. 6 incident and bring the guilty officials to book would a degree of credibility of the police force be restored. Whether the traditionally corrupt institution is up to the task will determine not only its credibility at home, but more importantly, also the credibility of the country´s security agencies in the international arena.