ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court bench investigating the abrupt transfer of police officer Rizwan Gondal from the post of District Police Officer of Pakpattan wondered on Friday if Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution, which envisages lifetime disqualification of a public office holder over abuse of powers, could be invoked in the case.

The scope of Article 62(1)(f) had been widened through a number of recent court judgements in which it had been held that the holder of a public office could be disqualified for abuse of authority, observed the three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar.

The court was hearing a suo motu case about the transfer of Mr Gondal after his alleged altercation with first lady Bushra Imran’s former husband Khawar Fareed Maneka.

Inquiry report claims transferred officer was slow in discharging duties

The bench asked Mr Maneka, Ahsan Jamil Gujjar (a Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf leader from Gujranwala), personal staff officer to Chief Minister Usman Buzdar, chief staff officer to the CM, Shahzada Sultan (posted at the DIG headquarters), and Col Tariq Faisal of the Inter-Services Intelligence to appear before the court on Monday.

At the outset of the hearing, the bench asked Col Faisal and Mr Maneka to appear before the bench, but the army officer replied he was busy and could not appear before it without permission from his superior officers. Similarly, Mr Maneka said he was in Lahore and had to pick his ten-year-old daughter from school.

Chief Justice Nisar was visibly perturbed that Mr Gondal was transferred at 1am in the morning and was asked to call upon Mr Maneka at his residence. “What was the urgency; couldn’t he be transferred in the morning?”

“This is a clear case of political dictation and interference,” he observed, adding that the court would not tolerate transfers on political pressure.

The chief justice said the court wanted to see police attain complete independence after getting rid of political pressures, adding that transfers on the advice of friends was not a good sign.

In his statement before the court, Mr Gondal said he had brought to the notice of Punjab Inspector General Kaleem Imam about an incident involving the Maneka family through WhatsApp and had sought his permission to meet the chief minister at the Chief Minister House. Mr Imam gave him the permission and asked him to tell Mr Buzdar that the incident was being investigated.

During the subsequent meeting, the chief minister asked Mr Gondal why one incident after another was taking place involving the Maneka family. Mr Buzdar was referring to the Aug 5 incident in which some policemen had misbehaved with a woman member of the family.

Later, said Mr Gondal, he received a call from a friend (Arshad Azeem) who asked him to go and meet Mr Maneka at his residence. But when he did not agree he received a call from Col Faisal, also a friend, who said that because the name of the chief minister was being dragged unnecessarily, it would be better for him to go to Mr Maneka’s house on his own.

When asked by the court, Mr Gondal explained that Mr Gujjar was the husband of Farah, a close friend of the first lady and at whose house the last wedding of Mr Khan had taken place.

Later in the night (between Aug 25 and Aug 26) the CSO to the CM told Mr Gondal that IG Imam had been asked to transfer him before 9am. Sahiwal DPO Shariq Kamal Siddiqui endorsed whatever Mr Gondal had said.

Additional Inspector General Abubakar Khuda Buksh told the court an investigation into the episode had found that Mr Gondal did not initiate any inquiry against any policeman into the incident in which some cops had misbehaved with a woman member of the family who was going to a shrine on foot. Being a civil servant, the-then DPO of Pakpattan was required to conduct an inquiry into the incident,

IG Imam denied that pressure had been exerted for Mr Gondal’s transfer, adding that the department had taken the decision on its own. He added that a transfer was not a punishment.

He said that because Mr Gondal had been summoned by the chief minister, he asked the junior officer to go to the Chief Minister House.

Referring to the Aug 5 incident involving a woman from the Maneka family, IG Imam said the woman had not just been stopped by some policemen but that someone had grabbed her by the arm.

Justice Umar Atta Bandial observed that the incident was reprehensible but the writ of the state had to be upheld. The judge criticised IG Imam for suggesting that the chief justice should investigate the case himself.

Meanwhile, an inquiry report has also held that Mr Gondal had shown lethargy in discharging his duties. Had he taken proper notice of the Aug 5 incident, the misunderstanding between the Maneka family and the district police officer could have been averted.

Published in Dawn, September 1st, 2018