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November 7, 2018

A tale of transfers


November 7, 2018

As the much-trumpeted first 100 days of the PTI’s government are drawing to a close, the politicisation of the bureaucracy still remains a highly controversial issue. Reforms in the civil service, particularly non-interference from politicians in transfers/postings, were one of the main slogans of the PTI’s Naya Pakistan.

A drastic change from the norms of the previous government was expected after the PTI came into power. Many hoped that the pitfalls of unnecessary political interference in administrative matters would come to an end and enable the demoralised bureaucracy to work without pressure. Instead, we witnessed a series of unfortunate events that were not only distressing for the morale of the bureaucracy, but also antithetical to the direction of Naya Pakistan.

It began when the deputy commissioners of Chakwal and Rajanpur, who took the decision to report political meddling by PTI legislators, were rebuked, reprimanded and issued show-cause notices for “violating the chain of command” in September. The issue at hand wasn’t even looked into and the matter was covered up.

A few weeks earlier, the Pakpattan DPO was transferred. It transpired that the DPO was punished because he couldn’t satisfy influential figures.

Thereafter, the Punjab IG was replaced a month after he was appointed, for not implementing the Punjab CM’s verbal orders to transfer all officers involved in the Model Town incident. Notably, the IG was punished because he could not keep the PTI and the PAT happy. Concomitantly, Nasir Khan Durrani, the head of the Punjab Commission for Police Reforms, resigned because his agenda for police reforms had received a major setback after the IG was transferred.

The transfer of the Punjab IG was a clear indication of political interference in matters involving transfers and postings. In addition, the decision violated the security of tenure policy laid down in the Police Order, 2002 and went against the Supreme Court’s verdict in the Anita Turab case.

Without much rancour or regret, Durrani was allowed to go home. It appeared that the PTI had given up on introducing police reforms in Punjab along the lines of those that were implemented in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa through Durrani’s efforts. Recently, the Islamabad IG was transferred because of his alleged refusal to facilitate a complaint made by the federal minister for science and technology and the delay in attending to the latter’s numerous phone calls.

One fiasco after another seems to have surfaced, with officers being punished because they failed to keep their political masters happy. The latter had the wherewithal to teach these officers a lesson and have them transferred. In all these cases, the policy of tenure flouted and no reasons were recorded in writing for the premature transfers, which are essential conditions under the law. This is a sheer mockery of the independence of the bureaucracy. Is a bureaucrat’s basic duty on the job to please politicians or serve the people?

In the Islamabad IG’s case, the chief justice debunked the myth of Naya Pakistan. He castigated the menace of political transfers and categorically directed bureaucrats to defy the illegal orders of the government. The transgressions of the ruling elite were exposed when the interior secretary, whose jurisdiction the Islamabad police falls under, didn’t even know about the IG’s transfer. So, where is the chain of command in this case? The notice taken by the honorable chief justice is a grim reminder for the ruling government that such acts of arbitrariness set a bad example for good governance.

Many analysts have rightly pointed out that this predicament is old wine in a new bottle. What became of creating a Naya Pakistan where rule of law triumphs everything, the political elite are accountable for their transgressions and wrongs, and the bureaucracy has security of tenure and takes decisions boldly and fearlessly in an environment that is free from political interference and the threat of unjust transfers. Such a Naya Pakistan has yet to be seen.

The writer holds an LLM degree ininternational economic law from theUniversity of Warwick.

Email: [email protected]

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