The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Monday suspended the provincial government's notification for the removal of Inspector General of Police (IGP) A.D. Khawaja, ordering him to immediately resume his duties as the provincial police chief.
The SHC also suspended Sardar Abdul Majeed Dasti's 'promotion' as acting IGP.
Following the court's orders, Dasti has relinquished the charge of acting IGP and vacated the office, a police spokesperson said.
"Though an official notification has not yet been issued, A.D. Khawaja has been asked to resume charge as IGP," he told Dawn.
A divisional bench of the high court, headed by Justice Muneeb Akhtar, ordered Khawaja's reinstatement while it heard a petition filed by the Pakistan Institute of Labour, Education and Research's (PILER) chief, Karamat Ali.
In his petition, Ali had argued that the provincial government should be held in contempt of court as it had defied a previous high court-issued stay on Khawaja's removal.
The provincial government had sent Khawaja packing after it appointed another Grade-21 police officer already working in the province in his place.
The Sindh government had said it was 'surrendering' Khawaja's services to the federal government.
A day later, without waiting for Islamabad’s nod, it appointed Additional IG Sardar Abdul Majeed Dasti as the provincial police chief till “appointment/posting of [a] regular incumbent by the Establishment Division”.
During the hearing, the court asked the advocate general (AG) under which law Khawaja was removed from his post.
The AG said the IGP had been appointed under Clause 3 of the Police Act, and that the Sindh govt has the right to appoint an IGP of its own choosing.
However, he was silent when asked if the provincial cabinet had been taken into confidence before the notification for Khawaja's removal was issued.
All governmental powers can only be exercised through the cabinet, the court reminded the AG.
A spokesperson for the petitioner said the hearing will resume on April 6.
The court has also ordered the provincial government not to remove Khawaja till the case has been decided, he added.
Soon after the court issued its orders, PPP leader Maula Bux Chandio announced that his party would use its constitutional right to challenge the SHC's ruling.
'Appointment of IG an administrative matter'
Speaking to media in Badin, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah said the appointed of Khawaja was an "administrative matter that should be settled according to the rules."
He added that the appointment of IG Sindh was made in accordance with rules as the post is of a senior police officer of grade 21 and following the 18th Amendment the province was given the authority to make appointments and decide the fate of its senior and able officers.
Shah added, however, that the PPP would "honour to the court of law and is trying to implement the decisions made by the court."
Who is A.D. Khawaja?
A.D. Khawaja was born to Abdul Aziz Khawaja in a family of traders in Tando Mohammad Khan, a small town in the Hyderabad division. However, he was raised by a Hindu friend of his father's.
One of his first appointments was in Dadu as an operational police officer. Khawaja is known to have adopted an unusual strategy devised at curbing police corruption on a street level ─ he would go undercover, patrolling the streets of Dadu masquerading as a milk seller. During the course of his ‘business’, he would identify cops who would ask him for bribes and take action against them.
He progressed steadily in his career, gaining a decent reputation over time.
Khawaja was tasked with investigating the murder of Murtaza Bhutto who was shot dead outside his party office in Karachi’s South Zone. Then a deputy inspector general (DIG) of police, Khawaja in 2009 testified that he had arrested one of the accused policemen, Wajid Durrani, who was senior superintendent police South at the time of the incident.
In early 2014, Khawaja was appointed DIG Motorways.
In March 2016, he assumed charge as IG Sindh. His appointment was preceded by the removal of Ghulam Hyder Jamali who had found himself at the centre of a National Accountability Bureau investigation into mismanagement of police funds.
In the first meeting he convened as IGP Sindh, Khawaja is reported to have said; "It is the need of the hour to ensure a people-friendly environment at every level in order to improve the performance of the police department and no negligence and carelessness will be tolerated."
Khawaja called for an improvement in the administrative and financial affairs of the police, and for making operational and investigative steps transparent and impartial.
"The administrative and financial affairs should be made better, besides making operational and investigative steps transparent and impartial. The compensation amount should be paid immediately to the families of policemen killed in the line of duty. All affairs in this regard should be made easy,” he is reported to have said.
Days into his new appointment, three senior officers of the Sindh police filed a petition in the Supreme Court against the newly-appointed Khawaja, seeking his repatriation to his respective parent department.
During his tenure as IGP Sindh, he emphasised greatly the need to depoliticise the police force and revamp Pakistan’s colonial-era laws regulating the police.
He is also known to have set up a board consisting of government officers and civilians that deals exclusively with the issue of misuse of funds.