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HomeNationalPunjab Police bears the brunt of ‘tabdeeli’

Punjab Police bears the brunt of ‘tabdeeli’

Making police a scapegoat to cover up government’s own mistakes is a tragedy, says former IG Khalid Latif

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government did not change the existing method of unnecessary transfers and postings as almost 30 officers were shuffled in the whole Punjab province after the recent protests and clashes between police and banned Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP).

Police officers including the capital city police officer (CCPO), deputy inspector general (DIG), and senior superintendent of police (SSP) have been transferred. Interestingly, the CCPO has been changed five times in the span of three and a half years of the PTI government.

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When the PTI came into power, CCPO Bashir Ahmed Nasir was appointed, then he was replaced by Zulfiqar Hameed.

According to a report in The News International on January 02,2021, Zulfiqar Hameed was removed from the post for his ‘daring and merit-based initiatives’. Hameed claimed to convert Lahore Police into the “New York Police”, but all his promises and claims were overwhelmed by his unnecessarily harsh criticism.

Subsequently, Umar Sheikh was brought as the domineering CCPO. According to media reports, his transfer reportedly took place upon a request made to Prime Minister Imran Khan by Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar.

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At the time of appointment of Umar Sheikh, IG Punjab was not taken into confidence.  When Umar Sheikh started taking bold steps and launched the concept of accountability within the department, the prime minister himself paid tribute to him but suddenly he was also replaced overnight after various controversies.

He allegedly made remarks against the then Punjab IG Shoaib Dastgir, which apparently caused the removal of the latter because Dastgir stopped working in protest against the allegations. The development was extensively covered by the media and a situation of mistrust arose inside the department amongst police officers.

He got a massive reaction and the situation for Umar Sheikh worsened when he outraged the general public by making statements that implied that the Lahore Motorway gangrape victim was partly responsible for the assault. People also protested in different cities and demanded his removal for his remarks.

On January 2, 2021, Sheikh was removed as CCPO. Prime Minister Imran Khan stated regarding the matter that the person who would not work would go home immediately.

At the journalist’s insistence, he sarcastically said that the police could only recover its image now if criminals were recruited in it.  When the prime minister turned his back on Umar Sheikh, Ghulam Mehmood Dogar was appointed as CCPO.  This was the time when the police officers in the department were in revolt against all inquiries.

On the other hand, the position of DIG Operations saw eight transfers during the three-and-a-half-year tenure of the ruling government.

Shahzad Akbar was working as DIG Operations when PTI came into power. He was replaced and Waqas Nazir was posted.  Shortly afterward, Ashfaq Khan was appointed DIG Operations, and then after some time, Rai Babar was given the seat of DIG. Surprisingly, Babar too was removed after a short span of time, and the designation was handed over to Ashfaq Khan once again.

The post was then handed over to Sajid Kayani but he was immediately removed after the Minar-e- Pakistan Incident that happened in Lahore and Sohail Chaudhry was appointed DIG.

Chaudhry also got replaced by Ahsan Younis for alleged poor performance during the TLP’s protest and sit-in.

On the other hand, the set of SSP operations could not escape this mode of change. A total of nine SSPs were posted in Lahore under the Buzdar government’s tenure. Asad Sarfraz khan, Mustanser Feroz, Faisal Shehzad, Malik Jameel, Ahsan Saifullah and Syed Nadeem Abbas were posted in this era while Ismail Kharak has been posted twice as SSP Operations. After the TLP sit-in, now Mustanser Feroz has been designated as SSP Operations Lahore once again.

In this regard, while speaking to Minute Mirror, former IG Khalid Latif said, “Whenever there is a tragedy, the police officials are changed or suspended and the government tries to impose their mistakes on the officers. If officials are to be held responsible then other departments of bureaucracy should also face these rapid transfers and postings.”

He further said, “Why authorities are scared of the shuffling in bureaucracy and try to make the police department a scapegoat after every incident. We must know that our police are not even equipped properly to deal with riots.”

While discussing the details of every incident in which the police got the blame, he said that the sword of the Model Town case was still hanging on the department.

He further said that even during the response to the TLP sit-in, no one briefed the police officers. He slammed the government and said that they had not yet been able to elect a permanent spokesperson for them.

“Every day there is a new face of Punjab government, either it’s Fayyazul Hassan Chohan, Firdous Ashiq Awan and now Hassan Khawar,” he said.

He concluded by saying that maybe the government was interested in their slogan of ‘change’ only within the Punjab Police department.

On the condition of anonymity, a serving senior officer of the police department, who has been a victim of these transfers and postings, said, “This is happening with us only because of the political influence. If we are allowed to take decisions independently and do our work professionally, we can definitely deliver.”

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