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November 13, 2018

Violation of Anita Turab case becomes a norm in PTI govt

Top Story

November 13, 2018

ISLAMABAD: Violation of Anita Turab case, despite serious warnings from the Chief Justice of Pakistan, has become a norm in Punjab where now the deputy commissioner Jehlum, appointed only a fortnight back, has been removed adding to the list of officers who have become rolling stones in the largest province of Pakistan.

On Monday, the November 12th, the Services & General Administration Department transferred Muhammad Suhail Khawaja from the office of Deputy Commissioner, Jehlum. He has been directed to report to the S&GAD for further orders.

The officer was appointed deputy commissioner, Jehlum, hardly a fortnight back by the same Punjab government after the Chief Minister Usman Burzar had personally interviewed him and found him fit for the Jehlum slot. On 28th October following the CM’s approval, the S&GAD had notified Khawaja’s transfer from the post of Director (Estate Management), Lahore Ring Road Authority, and appointed him as Deputy Commissioner, Jehlum.

Within days of the arrival of the PTI government, the-then DPO Pakpattan Rizwan Gondal was removed following political pressures and in violation of Anita Turab case, which directed the federal and provincial governments to protect the tenure of government servants.

The CJP took notice of the case, which was disposed of after the Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar and the-then IGP Kaleem Imam had apologized before the SC over wrongly transferring the officer following political pressure.

However, the very next day of the disposal of DPO Pakpattan case, another major violation of the Anita Turab case was done when the-then IG Police Punjab Tahir Khan was unceremoniously removed. Tahir Khan was removed almost a month after his appointment as the IGP by the same PTI government.

Although, the Chief Justice avoided taking notice of the premature transfer of Punjab IGP, he had to intervene when the federal government unceremoniously removed the Islamabad IGP Jan Muhammad, again without letting the officer complete his tenure and following political pressures.

During the hearing of the Islamabad IGP transfer case, the CJP had indicated that the apex court might take up the case of former IGP Punjab Tahir Khan’s case. However, it was not done. While the media and judiciary’s focus has been the cases of premature and controversial transfer of senior bureaucrats, the Punjab government resorted to a transfer policy for junior and mid-career officers which not only violates the SC’s decision but has made the officers rolling stones.

The News on Sunday (Nov 11th) reported how assistant commissioners and others, including police and municipal officials, are transferred by the Punjab government from one position to the other, and then to next and then to next within days.

This newspaper also referred to certain cases of officers’ repeated transfers. In one case, an Assistant Commissioner Mazhar Ali Sarwar has been transferred five times within 15 days. In another case, an officer Mr. Abid Shaukat, again an Assistant Commissioner, was transferred four times again within a fortnight. In yet another case, Capt (retd) Shahmeer Iqbal, a grade 17 officer of Pakistan Administrative Service (PAS), has also been made a rolling stone and within a three weeks’ time he was repeatedly transferred.

In another case of Punjab government’s administrative confusion, Assistant Commissioner, Kallar Saidan, Ali Akbar (PMS/BS-17) was initially transferred by the S&GAD as Assistant Commissioner, Noshera Virkan. Later, the S&GAD issued notification transferring Ali Akbar as Assistant Commissioner, Ferozwala. Two days later on Oct 19th, the S&GAD cancelled its Oct 17th notification regarding transfer of Ali Akbar as AC Ferozwala and posted him as AC, Shalimar Town, Lahore,

All such transfers, which are said to be many, are done in blatant violation of Supreme Court’s case in the Anita Turab case.

The Punjab government, however, does not see anything unusual with these transfers. Punjab’s Information and Culture Minister Fayaz-ul-Hassan Chohan had said that transfer and postings of police officials is a routine matter.

In the Anita Turab case, the SC had laid down the following principles to save the government servants from politicisation:

i) Appointments, Removals and Promotions: Appointments, removals and promotions must be made in accordance with the law and the rules made thereunder; where no such law or rule exists and the matter has been left to discretion, such discretion must be exercised in a structured, transparent and reasonable manner and in the public interest.

ii) Tenure, posting and transfer: When the ordinary tenure for a posting has been specified in the law or rules made thereunder, such tenure must be respected and cannot be varied, except for compelling reasons, which should be recorded in writing and are judicially reviewable.

iii) Illegal orders: Civil servants owe their first and foremost allegiance to the law and the Constitution. They are not bound to obey orders from superiors which are illegal or are not in accordance with accepted practices and rule Const. based norms; instead, in such situations, they must record their opinion and, if necessary, dissent.

iv) OSD: Officers should not be posted as OSD except for compelling reasons, which must be recorded in writing and are judicially reviewable. If at all an officer is to be posted as OSD, such posting should be for the minimum period possible and if there is a disciplinary inquiry going on against him, such inquiry must be completed at the earliest.

The SC had said that although it is conscious that the aforesaid matters relate to decision making and administration of the machinery of the State, we have recognised the need for ensuring that decision making in relation to tenure, appointments, promotions and transfers remains rule based and is not susceptible to arbitrariness or absolute and unfettered discretion.

Under the apex court’s direction, the copies of the judgment were sent to the Federal Secretary Establishment, the Chief Secretaries of the Provinces, the Commissioner Islamabad Capital Territory and to the secretaries of all Federal and Provincial government departments. However, generally this landmark judgment has been overlooked by the concerned authorities as the SC never followed it up.

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