A DECISIVE blow has been struck against the politicisation of the police in Sindh. Ruling on a petition filed by civil rights campaigners against the PPP government’s notification for the removal of A.D. Khowaja from his post as the province’s top police official, the Sindh High Court ordered that the incumbent would continue as inspector general, Sindh. Neither can he be removed until at least three years after his appointment in March this year. In fact, the court held that the provincial government cannot remove the IG without compelling reasons, and restored to Mr Khowaja his powers over postings and transfers within the police department that the PPP government had withdrawn from him in June. Equally significant, it directed the Sindh government to enact rules ensuring the IG’s autonomy of command and independence of operation. Meanwhile, no transfers and postings of police personnel are to take place without the IG’s order. In short, the court’s verdict goes to the heart of the issue: the independence of the police force.
Aside from KP, where reforms have brought sweeping changes, political interference in the workings of the police is to some degree institutionalised in Pakistan. State functionaries and political heavyweights are accustomed to using the police as an instrument to advance their interests and protect their ‘investments’. The result is a corrupt and compromised police force that abets and profits from criminal wrongdoing; loyalty to those in power counts for more than competence and qualifications, and duty to the public falls by the wayside. That largely explains why Sindh’s political elite decided it needed to dispense with the services of a police chief considered more upright than most. One of the reasons that Mr Khowaja incurred the wrath of the Sindh government was that he took steps to make the recruitment process more merit-based and transparent, a vital component in building an effective law-enforcement agency. When the PPP’s attempt to have him removed — being a federal appointee, the IG can only be removed by the centre — met with failure, possibly because of pressure from the security establishment on the Nawaz Sharif government, it proceeded to try and render him powerless. The Sindh government’s Machiavellian efforts to sideline the IG have been dealt a humiliating defeat. For the people, however, the verdict gives reason to hope that the long overdue process of police reforms can now get under way.
Published in Dawn, September 8th, 2017