Police politicisation

Published October 11, 2018

THE removal is, prima facie, a classic example of political interference; the denials and explanations of the federal government are scarcely believable — and the whole matter is doubly egregious because it goes to the heart of the PTI’s governance promises.

On Tuesday, the PTI federal government tried to remove Punjab Inspector General of Police Mohammad Tahir.

It is not clear if the attempted ouster of Punjab’s top cop has succeeded because the Election Commission of Pakistan has blocked the transfer citing a notification barring provincial transfers and postings ahead of by-elections on Oct 14.

However, the Establishment Division of the federal government has objected to the ECP’s intervention, claiming that transfers are barred only in the districts where by-elections are to take place and that Mr Tahir can be transferred as per the government’s wishes.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Imran Khan’s point man on police reforms in Punjab, former Khyber Pakhtunkhwa IGP Nasir Durrani, is reported to have resigned following the federal government’s decision to remove Mr Tahir as Punjab’s top cop.

The fiasco appears to be yet another self-inflicted wound for the PTI and is especially significant given the party’s public stance on the politicisation of the police and the need for deep-rooted reforms.

What is in question here is not the authority of the federal government to transfer a police chief, but the reasons for doing so.

Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry’s explanations have failed to dispel doubts created by media reports that the reason for Mr Tahir’s expulsion from Punjab is his unwillingness to transfer police officials as desired by the PTI in Punjab.

Indeed, with the current assemblies and governments less than two months old, it is difficult for legitimate professional reasons to have arisen that made Mr Tahir’s service in Punjab no longer tenable.

The PTI ought to consider rescinding its order to transfer the Punjab IGP or it must urgently provide a full and credible explanation for why it is necessary that Mr Tahir be removed from his post.

Prime Minister Khan has for years decried the politicisation of the police under the PPP and PML-N; the PTI has claimed one of its principal achievements in KP between 2013 and 2018 was the so-called depoliticisation of the provincial police force; and Mr Khan as prime minister has vowed to depoliticise the police in Punjab and purportedly demonstrated his resolve by installing Mr Durrani, the retired KP IGP, as police-reforms chief in Punjab.

The same Mr Durrani is now reported to have resigned in protest at Mr Tahir’s sudden attempted ouster from Punjab.

Certainly, the PML-N and PPP did not just fail to introduce police reforms over the past 10 years, at times they were seen as actively opposing them.

But Mr Khan and his PTI have vowed to be different. There is still time to do the right thing. Mr Tahir should be reinstated as Punjab IGP.

Published in Dawn, October 11th, 2018

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