The recent shuffling of senior police officers in the Punjab has jolted the entire police hierarchy
he recent change of governments in the Punjab has been followed by a quick, politically motivated shuffling of senior police officers in the province in general and in Lahore in particular. The move, initiated apparently to ensure strong political control over the police, has jolted the police hierarchy to the core. Many career officers are still struggling to find a safe path for survival.
Those quick to pledge allegiance to new political masters have been rewarded with appointment to prized posts. Those failing to do so have either been made officers on special duty (OSDs) or transferred to less significant assignments. The most recent casualty has been DIG Kamran Adil who reportedly refused to dance to the tune of the new political leadership. Sources in the police say DIG Adil was asked to arrest some high-profile political opponents of the government in false cases and interrogate them. However, the former chief of investigation wing, expressed his inability to do so. He was then warned in a high-level meeting that if he didn’t carry out orders he would have to face the music. His refusal resulted in his removal from the office.
The reshuffle, seen as a result of the political wrangling between the government led by Chief Minister Parvez Elahi and the opposition led by the former chief minister Hamza Shahbaz has further aggravated the situation. Its impact has been felt even in the lower ranks of Lahore police. This is apparent from the fact that shortly after the transfer of CCPO Bilal Siddique Kamyana and both the DIGs in charge of Operations and Investigation wings of the city police, a large number of the SPs, DSPs, SHOs and IOs too have been transferred.
The question that arises here is whether the wholesale transfers and postings have had an impact on the overall law and order situation in the city. Also, if the process continues what will its impact on the overall police work be?
It is pertinent to note the fact that despite the major shuffling of the hierarchy of the city police, the crime graph has showing no improvement. It still shows an upward trend, particularly in incidents of robbery. The City division tops the list in this regard; Saddar and Cantonment divisions are close runners-up.
Police officers, from top to bottom, appear to be disgruntled. Few of them are entertaining the hope of positive change. Most of them have relinquished the notion that postings, transfers and promotions can be gauged on the basis of performance. Most of them feel that in the current dispensation personal liking alone can guarantee good placement. It is important therefore for one to be in the good books of their political bosses.
It is pertinent to note that despite a major shuffling of the police hierarchy in the city, the crime graph has shown no improvement. It still has an upward trend particularly in incidents of robbery.
So why are political leaders so anxious to control the police force. The answer is very simple. They understand that the police is a powerful tool to retain power over. It can help them solve many problems for their voters and supporters.
The police stations, especially in Lahore, are seen as a source of power. A politician’s worth in the eyes of his voters is often determined by the influence he can exercise over the police. Moreover, as the transfers of district police officers (DPOs) are at the discretion of the chief minister, some police officers are always seeking the CM’s dear and near ones in the hope of getting a prized post.
Interestingly, if a police officer approaches a political leader and requests a prized post, it is not considered corruption. However, such favours come at a cost. For starters, they take a toll on merit so that the law and order situation deteriorates.
The indebted police officers have to return the favour in police inquiries and in posting of SHOs, no matter how destructive it is for the law and order in their area. Few officers can claim to have gotten a good posting in Lahore without political patronage. Being made an OSD is seen as a punishment reserved for officers who do not serve the interests of the politicians.
Talking to The News on Sunday (TNS), DIG Kamran Adil, in charge of Training and Legal branch, says the aim of the Police Order 2002 was to resolve the excessive use of force, abuse of authority, and political interference in police operations and administration. However, he says, political interference in police matters is a harsh reality. “Control over police is every Pakistani politician’s desire. It gives them the power to harass and oppress people and make the lives of their adversaries miserable,” he says. “While in power, many politicians want their opponents to fear accountability for corruption and abuse by the police”, he adds.
The DIG says, “the police officers who succumb to political pressure to get postings of their choice are soon forced to misuse their authority. There is a disinclination then towards registration of FIRs, use of third degree (torture), extrajudicial killings, unjustified and unwarranted arrests, and counterfeiting of evidence.”
He says widespread political interference in the selection and recruitment, transfer and promotion of police officers and day-to-day activities has made policing difficult.
“The police’s ability and willingness to fight crime and corruption and to abstain from high-handedness, extra-judicial killings and torture, has been affected,” he says.
The writer is a senior journalist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org