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October 11, 2018

Going by the rules


October 11, 2018

The PTI government may be eager to kick start its programme of reform but experience has taught us that a government that does not follow the rules will invariably be distracted from its agenda. The controversy over the Punjab government’s decision to replace Punjab IGP Tahir Khan with Amjad Saleemi is a reminder that the party should not fall prey to the temptation of seeking shortcuts. The move to transfer the IG was quickly blocked by the Election Commission of Pakistan since there are by-elections in the province on October 14 and the rules strictly forbid such important transfers and appointments. This is not to suggest that the intention of the PTI was to have a more pliable officer in place for the polls. The Punjab government may well believe that Tahir Khan is not up to the job, even though he was only appointed to the post just over a month ago. Even if that were the case, the explanation given by Federal Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry that Tahir Khan was removed for not obeying the government’s orders raises even more questions. Chaudhry did not explain which orders the IGP did not heed. A good police officer is one who tries to resist political interference and does not carry out the wishes of even elected leaders if they contravene the law. Until the PTI explains its allegations about Khan’s alleged subordination, it is difficult to reach a definitive conclusion about this controversy.

One person who does seem to have been perturbed by the attempt to remove Tahir Khan is former Khyber Pakhtunkhwa IGP Nasir Durrani, who has resigned from his position as head of the Punjab Committee on Police Reforms and Implementation. While ostensibly Durrani’s resignation is over health reasons, rumours say that he was alarmed by the transfer. Losing Durrani is a big blow to the credibility of the Punjab government since the committee was meant to act as a buffer against political interference in the Punjab police. The government has already set a bad impression with the way the Punjab chief minister is reported to have intervened to transfer the DPO of Pakpattan – something which earned the CM a rebuke from an independent commission and the Supreme Court. The PTI clearly sees the bureaucracy as an obstacle in the path to change and it is undeniably true that the civil service can be lethargic and overly conservative. But following the rules is essential to build trust and ensure everyone is treated fairly regardless of political affiliation.

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