The single-minded insistence of the Sindh government on pushing the centre to appoint Sardar Abdul Majeed Dasti as the new provincial police chief in place of incumbent A.D. Khowaja reeks of "favouritism" and seems to be "a political appointment", civil society organisations complained on Monday.
In a letter sent to the federal cabinet through their counsel, the organisations also rejected objections raised by the provincial government on the possible appointment of Mehr Khaliq Dad Lak — who is among those nominated as Khowaja's replacement — as the police chief.
The Sindh government had on Saturday once again asked the federal government to post Dasti as the new Sindh IG to replace Khowaja. Sindh's lawmakers had proposed a panel of three grade-22 officers to the Establishment Division for the appointment, including, in order of seniority: Dasti, Retired Capt Arif Nawaz and Mehr Khaliq Dad Lak.
However, the Sindh government's letter also noted that Nawaz and Lak have been recently posted as IG Punjab and additional director general Intelligence Bureau, respectively. It said that since both police officers' transfers and postings will be affected by tenure limitations set out by the Supreme Court in the Anita Turab case, Dasti appears to be the only logical choice for the high-level position.
Terming the Sindh government's opposition to Lak's appointment as IG "completely illegal and mala fide", Advocate Mohamed Vawda, on behalf of his clients, argues that if the provincial government's concern that the appointment would violate Lak's tenure as additional director general IB is maintainable, then the same objection should be applicable on the removal of IG Khowaja, as any appointment would violate his (Khowaja's) tenure as well.
Moreover, the Sindh government's objection that Lak has previously never been posted in Sindh and hence lacks experience about the "dynamics of this province" is "completely irrelevant" to his appointment as the IG and shows the "parochialism and provincialism of Sindh government", reads the letter, a copy of which is available with Dawn.
Civil society groups have argued that the appointment of Dasti as the IG has already been struck down once by the Sindh High Court in its judgement of Sept 07, 2017, when it ruled that Khowaja will continue to serve as the provincial police chief. They cited the following para from the judgement to support this fact:
"Since the proper procedure in accordance with law has not been followed, the correspondence addressed by the Provincial Government to the Federal Government on 31.03.2017 and the follow up notification of 01.04.2017 [i.e. through which Sardar Abdul Majeed Dasti was appointed] are quashed as being contrary to law and of no legal effect. The endorsement by the Sindh Cabinet of the foregoing at its meeting held on 05.04.2017 (vide agenda item No. 6) is also set aside as being contrary to law."
The reason "as to why Sindh government is so persistent to appoint Mr Sardar Abdul Majeed as [IG Sindh] is because he is a politicised appointee, clearly indicating favouritism", the letter read.
In light of above arguments, the counsel maintained that because the decision to remove IG Khowaja is "illegal", they oppose Dasti's appointment as IG.
Tug of war between Khowaja, Sindh govt
The PPP-led Sindh government had twice tried to remove IG Khowaja from his post — first in December 2016 when it sent him on forced leave, and then in April 2017 when it surrendered his services to the federal government and appointed Dasti, then in grade-21, as the provincial police chief.
Various civil society organisations, however, had approached the Sindh High Court against the removal of Khowaja and on Sept 7 the court ruled that the IGP would complete his term, which could not “under any circumstances be reduced to less than three years” if the provincial government amended or altered the rules at any time.
The provincial government and the PPP bigwigs were not happy with the court decision and moved the Supreme Court in October to challenge the SHC ruling.
Sources said that they wanted to remove him because he made such rules which, if accepted in the present form, could eliminate political interference in the police department.
Sindh Services Secretary Mohammad Riazuddin while briefing the cabinet last year had said that the IGP was a grade-22 post, but Khowaja was a grade-21 officer.
He said Khowaja was posted on March 12, 2016 on an own-pay-scale (OPS) basis. However, Dasti was promoted to grade-22 and his services had been placed at the disposal of the Sindh government. He was made an officer on special duty (OSD), the secretary said.
He said that the Supreme Court had returned all officers posted on an OPS basis to their original posts and, therefore, the posting of IG Khowaja was in violation of the apex court’s orders.
IG Khowaja, however, had said that when he was posted as the Sindh police chief with the consent of the provincial government by the federal government, the apex court’s judgement against OPS officials was in vogue, which showed that the Centre was mindful of the fact.
He added that since 2005 some 17 IGs had been posted in Sindh and 14 of them were in grade-21. Only three officers were in grade-22, he added.
He pointed out that the IGPs in all the provinces and the director general of the Federal Investigation Agency all were in grade-21. Recently, he said, the Punjab IG was promoted to grade-22.
He said this pattern showed that there was no hard and fast rule to post an official of either grade-21 or grade-22 as the IGP.