The Supreme Court on Thursday directed A.D. Khawaja to continue functioning in his capacity as the provincial police chief while also accepting the Sindh Government's appeal challenging a similar ruling by the Sindh High Court.
In September 2017 ─ months after the Sindh Government withdrew the officer's powers to decide the transfers and postings of senior police officials in the province ─ the Sindh High Court had ordered Khawaja to continue working as the inspector general of police.
A month later, the Sindh government had challenged the SHC's ruling in the Supreme Court. In its petition, the provincial government had maintained that services of an inspector general of police (IGP) are offered to the province on the will of the provincial governments.
Accepting the petition for hearing on Thursday, the apex court ruled that Khawaja would not be removed from his post even if the federal government consents to it.
"Any steps taken by the federal government regarding the appointment of the inspector general of police Sindh will not have any importance," Chief Justice Saqib Nisar said during the hearing, adding that Khawaja would keep his post until the trial concludes.
"The appointment of Sindh IGP is conditional to the ruling of the Supreme Court."
The lawyer representing Sindh government told the court that the SHC had declared the Police Act 2011 as constitutional.
"The SHC also gave A.D. Khawaja the powers to decide transfer of police officers," argued the lawyer.
"The Sindh High Court has given a very beautiful order," the chief justice said. "It is worth reading two, three times."
Tug of war between Khawaja, Sindh govt
Khawaja’s differences with bigwigs of Sindh's ruling party on issues relating to removal/posting of police officials before by-elections in some constituencies, his stance on a businessman said to be a close associate of PPP leader Asif Zardari and recruitment in the police department are no secret.
The PPP-led Sindh government had twice tried to remove IG Khawaja 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.
In September 2017, the SHC ruled that A.D. Khawaja will continue functioning as the provincial police chief, bringing a brief end to the legal wrangling between civil rights campaigners and the Sindh government over the IGP's posting.
The provincial government’s decision to remove Khawaja from his post had been seen by some as the PPP’s strategy for the upcoming general election. During the hearings of the petitions, IGP Khawaja offered to leave his post, telling the SHC through his counsel that doing his job had become increasingly difficult under the current circumstances as he has been facing increasing hostility from political quarters, with the provincial government keen to send him packing as soon as possible.
However, the SHC refused to let Khawaja relinquish his post and maintained its stay on his removal till it deliberates the matter.
According to the petitioners, the IGP was sent on a “forced leave” on Dec 19 because the Sindh government was “unhappy” with him over several issues relating to the recruitment of constables and suspension of police officers.
Born in a family of traders in Tando Mohammad Khan, Mr Khowaja had assumed charge as IGP in March 2016 after the removal of then IGP Ghulam Hyder Jamali who had found himself at the centre of a National Accountability Bureau investigation into mismanagement of police funds.