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Buzdar could quit if he’s unable to run Punjab affairs: CJP

Updated September 18, 2018

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PUNJAB Chief Minister Usman Buzdar listens to an aide while talking to media outside the Supreme Court after hearing of the case pertaining to the transfer of former Pakpattan DPO.—Online
PUNJAB Chief Minister Usman Buzdar listens to an aide while talking to media outside the Supreme Court after hearing of the case pertaining to the transfer of former Pakpattan DPO.—Online

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Monday appointed Khaliq Dad Lak, national coordinator for the National Counter-Terrorism Authority (Nacta), to probe why and on whose instruction a senior police officer was transferred in the dead of night without following legal procedure against the backdrop of the Pakpattan incident.

A three-judge SC bench, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar, also rejected an earlier inquiry report submitted by former police chief of Punjab Kaleem Imam who had been directed two weeks ago to investigate how Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s Gujranwala chapter president Ahsan Iqbal Jamil Gujjar — in the presence of Punjab Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar — interfered in the administrative matter of police concerning Pakpattan District Police Officer Rizwan Gondal.

The highlight of Monday’s proceedings was the appearance of CM Buzdar before the apex court, which was visibly perturbed over the fact that Mr Gujjar was called to the CM Secretariat without recording his entry at gates, alleged attempts to undermine police force at the meeting and the DPO’s transfer after midnight.

The CJP observed that the inquiry to be conducted by Nacta would expose all links. During the proceedings, he also mentioned Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution, which envisages lifetime disqualification of a public office holder on abuse of authority, in the case at hand.

SC rejects inquiry report by former provincial police chief and asks Nacta head to probe DPO’s transfer

The apex court had taken up suo motu notice of the Pakpattan DPO’s transfer for allegedly having an altercation with Khawar Fareed Maneka, former husband of first lady Bushra Imran.

Before postponing further proceedings for two weeks, the CJP suggested to CM Buzdar that he would earn respect in case he quit, realising that it was difficult for him to run the affairs of the country’s largest province in a proper manner.

The chief minister, however, argued that his intention behind the meeting was not bad as he had known Mr Gujjar even before the July 25 general elections. He said the PTI leader was called to the CM Secretariat to settle the controversy between the Maneka family and the police.

CM Buzdar said he had never tried to belittle the RPO and DPO, who he had called to the CM Secretariat in the absence of the Punjab IG as the latter was in Islamabad at that time.

In fact, he added, he showed respect to them and offered tea to the two police officers as he wanted that the officers settle the matter by themselves. After assuming office, the chief minister said he preferred to meet people himself. He said Mr Gujjar was asked to attend the meeting, because he had close links with the Maneka family.

Earlier in his statement given to the Punjab IG, CM Buzdar stated he had called the two officers as elders according to his traditions to address the fears of the Maneka family. It was not an official meeting as both police officers were treated with respect, he added.

The CJP said that the SC wanted to see the police completely independent and free from any political pressures, but it did not auger well if some influential person exerted pressure for the police officer’s transfer in the presence of the chief minister.

The CM should himself have solved the matter, he added.

The CJP recalled how someone said the DPO should be transferred since he did not want to see his face in the morning. He also expressed his surprise over Mr Gujjar’s becoming the guardian of the children of the Maneka family. Referring to the PTI leader, the court also regretted that persons like him destroyed the entire system. Mr Gujjar, however, tendered unqualified apology and threw himself at the mercy of the court.

The chief justice also cautioned the CM that he would have to face the music in case it was established that an attempt had been made to cover up something or someone.

He said he was at a loss to understand why the transfer orders had been issued shortly after midnight and why the DPO was transferred without initiating a proper procedure only to fulfil the wish of a friend of a powerful man.

“This is a question of the rule of law,” the chief justice observed, asking again why should police officers visit someone’s ‘dera’. “Is this the way to run such a big province?” he asked.

During the proceedings, Additional Advocate General for Punjab Shan Gul apprised the court that the DPO had himself decided to go to the ‘dera’. The law official of the Punjab government said efforts would be made to prevent anything like this happening again in future. A legal adviser was deputed at the CM Office for legal consultation, he added.

The CJP observed that the court had provided a chance to the Punjab IG to come up with a faithful report disclosing who had given the transfer orders. But IG Imam wasted the opportunity and brought humiliation to his own department by holding one of his officers at fault, he noted. IG Imam explained that he had issued transfer orders at around 10pm but it was executed around 1am. He also sought forgiveness of the court by extending apology.

Published in Dawn, September 18th, 2018