PESHAWAR: A defiant provincial police chief and a weak provincial chief executive, the result: the ownership of a rest house in the cool climes of Nathiagali that was supposed to have been transferred to the department of tourism, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa way back in June, remains in limbo.
Dawn has in its possession details of the correspondence between the police department and the office of the chief secretary including the approval of Chief Minister Pervez Khattak to transfer the ownership of the Police Rest House in Nathiagali.
Nothing doing, believes the Inspector General of Police, Nasir Khan Durrani, who has continued to thwart attempt by the government to wrestle back the ownership of 11-bed, eleven-bath and two servant-room facility from the police and transfer it to the KP Department of Tourism and Culture.
Known as Rockingham House during the British time, the Police Rest House, spreading over 14,342 square metres (approx. 14 kanals), was part of the 15 rest houses, an apex committee that besides CM Khattak, was also attended by PTI chairman Imran Khan held in May, 2015, decided these be handed over to department of tourism for management and renting out on market rates.
Subsequently, a summary was moved on June 10, 2015, seeking approval of the chief minister for the handover of 15 rest houses to the department of tourism. The CM approved the summary on June 18 followed by a notification on June 25, 2015.
IGP thwarts KP govt’s attempt to assume control of the facility
Consequently, all rest houses including the rest house of the chief secretary, KP, called Retreat House, were handed over to the department by July end, 2015, except the Police Rest House, and were opened to general public for the summer season.
In three weeks, the now-open-to-public rest houses, earned Rs2.5 million, prompting the PTI chairman to visit Nathiagali on October 16, 2015, to appreciate the progress at a ceremony on the lawns of what until then was the chief secretary’s summer-holiday retreat.
However, on June 26, 2015, the day after notification for the handover of the rest houses was issued, deputy inspector general (headquarters), wrote a letter to the secretary tourism, on behalf of the inspector general of police, requesting to keep the matter pending till a review of the decision.
“The said police facility at Nathiagali cannot be handed over to the Tourism Department”, Mubarak Zeb wrote. The “Nathiagali Police Facility”, he continued, did not fall in the category of government rest houses since the government neither made any contribution towards its construction nor its maintenance.
Also, he pointed out, the piece of ‘government land’ in possession of the Police Department, contained operational buildings including Nathiagali police post, office and residence of SDPO Galiyat and a camp office “with a few rooms which are used by senior police officers during their stay in connection with official inspection visits on the occasion of VVIP/VIP to Galiyat.”
Moreover, he argued, Nathiagali was a sensitive area from security point of view, where the presence of police was essential.
The same day, on June 26, the Provincial Police Officer, Nasir Khan Durrani, wrote a letter to the chief secretary, more or less reproducing the letter of his DIG, headquarters, requesting that “the police facility at Nathiagali which has been erroneously referred to as Rest House, may be dropped from the list of Government of Rest Houses, supposed to be handed over to the Tourism Department.”
While the official correspondence continued, the Police Department, government of KP, went and sought a stay order from the court of senior civil judge, Abbottabad on July 2, 2015, against the government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, through its secretary tourism.
The director general, Galiyat Development Authority, in response to a letter from the chief secretary, wrote back on July 6, 2015: “Rockingham House was providing “recreational facilities to the police officers of the province since the British time.”
He complained that the police contingent did not allow his staff to carry out the measurement, citing a court stay order against the government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. He pointed out that Rockingham House was still being used as a rest house and SDPO’s Galiyat office was located at Nathiagali, while his residence was at Donga Gali.
The police, he said, also failed to provide any documentary evidence to establish their ownership of the property.
The deputy commissioner, Abbottabad on July 1, 2015, pointed out that the electricity bills issued to the Rockingham House was in the name of Police Rest House.
Adding further twist to the story, the deputy commissioner wrote that the police relocated the office and residence of the deputy superintendent of police (DSP), which were previously located at Donga Gali “in the last 18 to 20 days.”
In post haste, he said, the police requested on June 30, 2015 that the rest house be transferred in their name, “shows that the it is not the residence/office of the SDPO”, he concluded.
Subsequently, the chief secretary moved another summary to the chief minister on the 14th of July, 2015 detailing communication from the office of the provincial police chief and replies from the DG Galiyat and deputy commissioner, Abbottabad.
The land, the chief secretary wrote, was worth Rs300 million. The original Rockingham House was raised before the partition and in its place four independent rest houses with 14 to 16 bedrooms, lounges, sitting rooms and sub room along with three servant quarters had been building which was used as recreational facility by the police. The building, he said, was on the list of Annual Return Public Civil Buildings of the C&W department and was shown as building of the provincial IG police.
The construction of the current buildings, he wrote in the summary, was neither carried out through ADP schemes nor was mandatory permission of GDA obtained.
Regarding the issue of rest house being used as residence and office of the SDPO Galiyat, the chief secretary wrote that residence of SDPO Galiyat was in Donga Gali along with SHO’s residence and police station on approximately four kanals of land built in 2006-7 at a cost of Rs11.718 million.
The office of the SDPO, he pointed out, was adjacent to Government Primary School (Boys) Nathiagali Bazaar, whereas electricity bills were issued in the name of the police rest house. “There is no denying the fact that the said building is a rest house and the same should be handed over to Tourism Department for further necessary action”, the summary to CM Khattak concluded. The chief minister again approved the summary.
Undeterred, the provincial police chief, wrote again to the chief secretary on the 27th of July, re-iterating his earlier stand while describing the facts brought before the government as “factually incorrect.”
He contested the government’s assertion of owning the rest house, saying that neither it provided any budget for its construction, nor for its maintenance. The entire ‘police facility’, he noted, was being taken care of through the police department’s own resources.
He also denied the existence of SDPO’s office in Donga Gali and said that the officer was using the quarters of a moharrir police station, Donga Gali as his residence, while he used a single room located in the police post near GPS, Nathiagali on need basis during summer season.
Again, he requested that a fresh summary be moved to the chief minister to exclude the Nathiagali police facility from the list of the rest houses.
On August 26, 2015, the chief secretary through a DO (demi official) letter informed the provincial police chief that the contents of his letter were reviewed and discussed with the chief minister, “who has confirmed decision taken on the summary dated 14th July, 2015. Therefore, the facility may kindly be handed over to Tourism Department by 31st August, 2015.”
While this went on, the establishment department, weary that the police might again attempt to block the transfer of the facility through litigation, warned all departments, including the police, against challenging executive orders in the court of law which embarrassed the government. This, it said, was a violation of the Rules of Business 1985.
“The executive orders issued by the competent authority of the Province be complied with in letter and spirit”, it directed.
The police however, went ahead and filed appeal in the court of additional district and session judge, Abbottabad. Exasperated, the tourism department wrote back to establishment department, pointing out the continued refusal of the police department to handover the facility. “
“The police department, yet again, in violation of the circular, filed an appeal on the same very day, the circular was issued. The said action clearly calls for disciplinary action”, it said. “The police department not only involved the provincial government in unauthorised/illegal litigation process but blatantly violated the executive orders, directives of the Honourable Chief Minister, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa”, it said.
The law department granted sanction to the tourism department to defend the case.
Published in Dawn, January 7th, 2016