A conversation with Captain Suhail Chaudhry (retired), the Lahore Operations DIG
When the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) came to power in the Punjab reforms in the Police Department was on the top of its list of priorities Transfer of six inspectors general (IGs) since then and subsequent shuffling of a great many senior police officers suggests that there might be more to this than meets the eye. Relatively junior police officers too have been subject to premature transfers. The strategy has hitherto proven counter-productive.
Official statistics show that the Punjab has been the most affected province in terms of premature transfers. It is hard to find an officer in the Punjab Police who has been left alone. The News on Sunday (TNS) sat down with Captain Suhail Chaudhry (retired), the deputy inspector general in charge of operations in Lahore, to seek an understanding of how senior officers in the Punjab Police view the phenomenon. Excerpts
The News on Sunday (TNS): Do you agree with the perception that a lot of premature transfers and postings are being carried out in the Punjab these days?
Suhail Chaudhry (SC): I’d rather not pass a comment on the subject as the matter does not fall in my jurisdiction. It’s the prerogative of the Punjab Police IG.
TNS: That’s understandable. But being in charge of Operations in Lahore, are you not entrusted with the task of carrying out postings and transfers of subordinate police officers; like the more than 80 station house officers (SHOs)? Have the SHOs been facing premature transfers?
SC: I don’t know the details about what happened before I took charge. I hope that all transfers were ordered in accordance with the law. Now the IG has issued a clear-cut policy about postings and transfers of the SHOs across the province. The security of tenure for an SHO has been set at three months. This means that no police station-in-charge can be changed or replaced before three months unless he commits a blunder. Only in an extreme situation, can one be removed immediately. That too requires a thorough inquiry that finds the officer guilty.
TNS: How important is security of tenure for a senior police officer?
SC: For good performance, continuity of tenure is imperative for senior officers, particularly the RPOs and the DPOs. Without a secure tenure, they can’t deliver the results expected of them. When an RPO or a DPO is posted in a range or a district, he needs at least six months to adapt himself to the new atmosphere, fully comprehend the area and its inhabitants, their customs and culture and nature of routine crime. It is indeed imperative that he also have good terms with the civil society, public representatives, religious leaders, lawyers and the media. These people have a pivotal role in establishing his repute - good or bad. A police officer cannot live in isolation. To maintain law and order and eradicate of crime he needs to establish a good working relationship with important strata of the society. He has to win the trust of law-abiding citizens and has to work in close liaison with them.
TNS: What, in your opinion, should be the minimum tenure of the commander of a range or a district?
SC: At least three-years to prove his mettle although one hopes to start getting good results in a year.
For good performance, continuity of tenure is imperative for senior officers, particularly the RPOs and the DPOs. Without a secure tenure, they can’t deliver the results expected of them.
TNS: What are the other important factors that make you feel that continuity of tenure is imperative?
SC: I served for 20 months in Sargodha district and for more than two years in Faisalabad. You can see the results I delivered there. Particularly, when I was in Faisalabad working under the command of RPO Raja Riffat and with DPO Ahsan Younas, our team brought crime to a new low. Raja Riffat is now abroad on a training course. Ahsan Younas is serving in Rawalpindi.
TNS: How does the crime rate in the adjoining districts affect an officer’s performance? How is the continuity of the tenure of a senior police officer relevant in this case?
SC: I think it’s because when a senior police officer is posted in a district, it’s not just his district that he has to look after. He also has to be alert about the goings on in the adjoining districts. The interprovincial and inter-district movement of criminals contributes to crime in his district. It can also pose a major threat for law and order in his district. That’s why a commander needs time. Once established, he has to remain on his toes all the time.
TNS: What happens to training of the police force, and the overall police station (thana) culture if an RPO or DPO is transferred prematurely?
SC: There are several factors associated with the continuity of the tenure of a police officer in a district. For instance, when a senior police officer is deputed to a district, in addition to rooting out crime and criminals from his area, he initiates a number of projects, like training of his subordinates, building of police stations and carrying out development and administrative plans. Sometimes, the fate of these projects hinges on the availability of the officer who initiated them. If the officer is transferred, some of these projects risk going down the drain. When I was serving in Sargodha, a record number of eight new police stations and several chowkis (posts) were built in one year.
TNS: How does this apply to a mega city?
SC: Serving in a mega city is even more challenging. The city of Lahore, for instance, is unique in its culture and in terms of law and order challenges. From weeding out crime to performing VVIP duties, one has to strive hard. It’s a rather tricky city. One has to be on one’s guard all the time. How can a police officer serve in a mega city if he does not have prior knowledge of its nature, culture and demography? Such knowledge can only be gained by being in the city for a reasonably long period.
The writer is a senior journalist and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org