Monday October 18, 2021

PTI’s police reforms agenda ignored as Buzdar govt keeps changing IGPs

September 14, 2021

LAHORE: Since coming to power in 2018, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has apparently buried the police reforms policy, implemented by the former head of the Punjab Commission for Police Reforms, Nasir Khan Durrani (late), in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province.

The much-trumpeted police reforms were abandoned the day Durrani refused to work without giving operational autonomy to the inspectors general of police (IGPs). The removal of six IGPs in just three years has stirred concerns among all stakeholders.

In an exclusive conversation with this correspondent a few months before his passing, Nasir Durrani said, “If the experiment of unity in command could be successful in KP, then it is also possible to replicate it in Punjab.”

Durrani told The News that before he assumed the charge as an inspector general in KP, he put forward two demands before the chief minister; first, total operational autonomy for unity in command, and second, public accountability.

Through operational autonomy, Durrani even sought powers to make transfers and postings of additional inspectors general of police. His demands were approved and they were included in the KP Police Act.

Durrani said that in KP, the IG was empowered to issue orders of transfers and postings to the rank of DSPs. Only in the case of DPOs, the IG required to send a panel of officers to the chief minister for approval.

After he assumed charge, he was allowed operational autonomy. Durrani served there for more than three-and-a-half years and he practically implemented police reforms, which were also hailed by the opposition leaders.

Durrani said he used to invite the opposition leaders as chief guests in official functions, and an example was set by registering FIRs against the treasury members whenever anyone committed a cognizable offence.

Durrani said policing in KP was difficult compared to Punjab, as the people of the frontier0 province followed traditional norms. He added that changing traditional attitude was not an easy job. “However, as the people of KP witnessed fairness and firmness, they happily accepted the change,” Durrani said. He added that there was no political interference at all.

Durrani added there was also a system of public accountability, as only operational autonomy without accountability could have led to misuse of power. “Yes, there should always be public accountability,” he added.

“My team and I were always ready to face accountability at every forum,” Durrani said adding that that had a positive impact on police culture and helped boost public confidence in the law-enforcement personnel. Durrani said it also helped boost the morale of police officers, as they were not tagged as appointees of MPAs and MNAs.

About the constant reshuffle of IGPs, CCPOs, and massive transfer of officers in Punjab during the tenure of the PTI in centre and in the province, Durrani said, “I believe they will have to revert back ultimately one day.”

He said duality dilutes command, but unity assures service delivery.

Commenting on his service in Punjab, Durrani said he worked in eight difficult districts including Sheikhupura, Sialkot, Jhang, Gujranwala and Sargodha and got a very good response due to firmness and fairness in performance of duties.

Unfortunately, the PTI government seems to have lost enthusiasm for reforms in the thana culture which has resulted in transfer of six IGPs, most of them regarded as highly competent, decorated, honest and capable of implementing the required reforms. They were brought to the slot of Provincial Police Officer (PPO) with honour, but went home with disgrace as no obvious reason could be tabled as a motive behind their sudden removals.

When the PTI government came to power in 2018, Dr Syed Kaleem Imam was the first IGP in Punjab, who was serving in his role since June 13, 2018. However, he was removed within three months of his posting, on Sept 11, 2018.

Muhammad Tahir replaced Kaleem Imam on the same day. Before his appointment as IGP Punjab, Tahir was serving as IGP Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and had served on key posts in Punjab, Islamabad and KP. However, he was allowed to work for only one month and was sent packing on Oct 15, 2018. In protest against the removal of Muhammad Tahir, the head of the Punjab Commission for Police Reforms Nasir Khan Durrani also stepped down.

This was the day when the police reforms agenda was packed up in Punjab due to the reasons best known to Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar and Prime Minister Imran Khan.

The third IGP, who became a favourite of the PTI stalwarts, was Amjad Javed Saleemi, but he was also allowed to serve for only six months and was sent packing on April 17, 2019. Amjad Javed Saleemi had served as IGP Sindh before being appointed as the IGP Punjab.

Then, Captain (retd) Arif Nawaz Khan was posted as fourth IGP in Punjab and was also allowed to work for only seven months. He was transferred on Nov 28, 2019 without giving any justification for his premature transfer.

Former Azad Kashmir IGP Shoaib Dastgir was appointed as IGP Punjab as the fifth IGP of the Buzdar government. He was luckier compared to the previous four IGPs, as he was able to serve for 10 months.

On Sept 9, 2020, he was also transferred, or rather he preferred to go home as the most controversial CCPO, Umar Sheikh, had started bashing the IGP openly. Taking advantage of the situation, Inam Ghani tried his luck and appointed as the PPO.

He boasted about bringing reforms in the police culture but most incidents of police highhandedness and poor response, including the incident of Greater Iqbal Park and the firing incident in the presence of the CM, occurred during his tenure.

His tenure as the IGP lasted almost for one year. However, the PTI government did not allow any of the above IGPs to serve as long as Nasir Durrani served in KP.

On Sept 8, 2021, Punjab Safe Cities Authority Managing Director Rao Sardar Ali Khan replaced Inam Ghani. Rao Sardar is also regarded as an upright officer. He belongs to 18th Common. He hails from district Lodhran. He joined the police service in 1990 as the assistant superintendent of police (ASP). The new police chief has also worked in the Intelligence Bureau for at least five years. Nobody knows how long he will serve to the satisfaction of the PTI government.