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August 29, 2018

Awkward questions are being asked about the removal of DPO Pakpattan


August 29, 2018

ISLAMABAD: Awkward questions are being asked about the recent suspension of the District Police Officer (DPO) of Pakpattan.

What made the Punjab Chief Minister, Usman Buzdar, directly intervene against the DPO? Who asked the provincial police chief to contact the influential complainant, Khawar Maneka, the ex-husband of the prime minister’s wife, and remove DPO Rizwan Gondal from his post in the middle of the night?

Neither the Punjab government nor the provincial inspector general (IG) of police seem to think there is anything unusual about the controversial removal of the DPO Pakpattan. Both deny that any political pressure led to his unseating.

However, the facts of the case related by sources to The News raise serious doubts about these official claims.

Punjab Information Minister Fayazul Hasan Chohan on Tuesday denied that Prime Minister Imran Khan and Punjab Chief Minister Buzdar had played any role in the controversial transfer of Gondal. It was entirely an internal police matter, Chohan said.

However, the sources were adamant that the DPO Pakpattan and his supervising Regional Police Officer (RPO) were summoned to Lahore last week by Buzdar. Both the officers had informed their boss, Punjab IG Kaleem Imam, of their facts of the Maneka incident prior to their meeting with the chief minister. After the meeting, they again briefed Imam about what was discussed by Buzdar - the Maneka incident, the sources said. The sources told The News that the DPO and RPO told IG Kaleem that a third party was present at their meeting with the the Chief Minister. Afterwards, the police officers came to know that this person was closely associated with Maneka and his ex-wife.

The media has reported Rizwan Gondal's claim that he was pressured in the meeting with the chief minister to visit Maneka at his residence and tender an apology, which he had refused to do. But sources close to the IG said that he was told that the chief minister had only asked about the facts of the incident involving the police's interception of Khawar Maneka’s over speeding vehicle, after he had refused to heed a signal to stop at a picket.

Within two days of the officers' meeting with the chief minister, the IG was approached by someone who sought his intervention in the matter. Subsequently, the IG contacted Maneka and heard his side of the story. Later, the Additional IG also spoke with Maneka, who complained that the Pakpattan police had misbehaved with his family.

Officials, including the DPO, told the IG that Maneka had abused the police officials who chased and intercepted his vehicle. The sources said the police filmed the entire incident.

At 1.07 am on August 27, the Punjab Police issued a notification, with the signature of IG Kaleem, announcing the transfer of Gondal from his post as DPO Pakpattan to the Central Police Office, Lahore. No explanation has been offered by the Punjab police as to what prompted the IGP to issue the transfer order at such an odd hour.

Gondal was removed within three months of his appointment as DPO Pakpattan, without any reason put into writing by the IG. Both the Punjab government and the IG chose to set aside the police officers' account of Maneka's misbehaviour.

Instead, an official statement was issued by the Punjab police, claiming: “Pakpattan DPO Rizwan Omar Gondal has misbehaved with a citizen and he repeatedly committed misconduct. The DPO is transferred on misinterpreting the incident, and running a fake incident on social media. The IG has ordered an inquiry against DPO Rizwan Gondal. The DPO demonstrated irresponsible attitude and he misguided his seniors.”

In the Anita Turab case, the SC had established guidelines under which no officer could be transferred prematurely without completion of their tenure. In a case where an officer is prematurely transferred, the court ruled it could only be done after reasons were provided in writing; these could be challenged in a court of law.

An official police source, who has spoken to both sides in his department, suggested to this correspondent that Prime Minister Imran Khan should hold an inquiry into the matter. The trusted former IG of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Nasir Durrani, could determine who was at fault and if any political pressure had been brought to bear on the Punjab IG to remove the Pakpattan DPO. But, in the same breath, the officer doubted that would happen.

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