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October 31, 2018

Transfer fiasco


October 31, 2018

The PTI government has become a magnet for controversy during its short time in government. First there was the transfer of the Pakpattan DPO for which the Punjab chief minister was rightly rebuked by the Supreme Court. Now the government is facing similar judicial heat for the clumsy way it handled the transfer of Islamabad IGP Jan Mohammad. The first inkling that this transfer may not have been handled by the book came with reports that the IGP was moved because he refused to attend a minister’s phone calls. That was denied by the government but the Supreme Court then took notice of the issue. The government was soon forced to admit that it did not follow protocol in the transfer. The interior secretary, under whose jurisdiction the Islamabad police falls, did not even know about the transfer. Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry claims the transfer was made on the verbal orders of Prime Minister Imran Khan. There are still conflicting reports about when the government decided to transfer the IGP. The Supreme Court has now suspended the transfer notification and it is hoped that the government is more careful in the future. The bungling of the IGP transfer raises questions not just about the methods of the government but also its motivations.

The PTI swept to power promising a change from the corruption, nepotism and favouritism of the past. It has defended its transfers as a necessary step in purging the civil service of those who are seen as political appointments or who are unable to get the job done. Yet other governments have used the same rationale when trying to get their favoured people in – and they have done so without flouting regulations. The government seems to believe it deserves the benefit of the doubt for every decision it makes, and takes badly to any criticism. There is also the question of how the government can hope to get anything done when it finds it so difficult to get its story straight. On multiple issues – be it civil service transfers or approaching the IMF for a loan – different government officials have given wildly different stories. The problem stems from the top. The prime minister has an improvisational style that does not lend itself to consistency or planning. He seems to be making spur of the moment decisions that leave some in the dark and others scrambling to implement them. This is not how a government should function. If the PTI is to fulfil its many promises, it needs to get its act together immediately.

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