Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar on Monday suspended the 'unlawful' transfer of the Islamabad police chief after it emerged that he had been removed from the post following verbal directives from Prime Minister Imran Khan.
The CJP had taken suo motu notice of Inspector General of Police (IGP) Islamabad Jan Mohammad's transfer today in the wake of conflicting reports about the reasons behind ─ and timeline of ─ his transfer.
IGP Jan Mohammad, a retired lieutenant and a BS-20 officer of the Police Service of Pakistan (PSP), was posted out from the force and his services were surrendered to the Establishment Division on Saturday.
Conflicting reports about IGP's transfer
The government's Fake News Buster Twitter account on Sunday rubbished local media reports that the IGP had been transferred because he did not attend minister Azam Swati's phone calls.
A clarification shared by the account quoting the Interior Ministry spokesperson claimed that the ministry rejected the "baseless" reports.
The spokesperson explained that the summary for the IGP's removal was sent to Prime Minister Imran Khan three weeks ago, and that it faced approval delays due to the PM's busy schedule and his travel.
However, sources close to the development told Dawn that the decision to transfer the IGP, who had been appointed before the general election, was made last week.
The decision was made over some issue, the sources said, but did not share the exact reason behind the transfer.
The IGP's transfer is the latest among a series of reshuffles in police postings.
'Court won't tolerate political transfers'
The CJP today summoned the secretary Interior to court today to explain why the IGP Islamabad was transferred.
"We will not allow our institutions to be compromised because of some senator, minister, or his son," the top judge asserted.
"We've heard that the IGP was removed at the behest of some Veer (brave man)," Justice Nisar commented. "The rule of law will be upheld."
The hearing resumed after a break, with the CJP asking if the secretary Interior had been summoned, to which Additional Attorney General Sajid Ilyas Bhatti replied in the affirmative.
"The secretary should come with the complete record and tell us why the transfer took place," Justice Nisar said.
"The court will not tolerate such political transfers," the CJP said, noting that "there was also a transfer in Punjab, and this transfer happened within a matter of days. The attorney general's office should also provide a report on this."
"How were the IGPs reshuffled just days after being posted?" he wondered. "The Islamabad IGP was transferred exactly the way that the Punjab IGP was transferred."
The CJP summoned the records for the transfers of both the Punjab and Islamabad IGPs.
"Tell the secretary Interior to provide the record for both police officers. The rules were fixed in the A.D. Khowaja case," the CJP said, referring to the court's suspension of the controversial transfer of the former Sindh police chief by the PPP government.
"Tell us when he [the Islamabad IGP] was transferred," the CJP demanded.
He added that the hearing would resume in the open court once the secretary Interior arrived in court.
Secy Establishment transferred IGP without consulting me: Secy Interior
The court expressed its displeasure over the delay in the secretary Interior's arrival in court as the hearing resumed. "Should the court wait for you?" the CJP asked the official.
Once in court, the secretary Interior told the bench that the Islamabad IGP's transfer was handled by the secretary Establishment.
The court asked the secretary Interior whose jurisdiction the capital police falls under, to which he responded that it fell under the Interior Ministry's purview.
"You have no idea that the IGP under you has been transferred," the CJP commented, to which the secretary Interior responded that he had not been consulted at the time of the transfer.
"Attorney general sahab, if you were aware that the secretary Establishment was behind the transfer, you could have called him too," the CJP said. "Should we now sit and play Ludo while we wait for him to come here?"
The attorney general's request to postpone the case was rejected by the court, which directed the secretary Establishment to shelve his other commitments and appear before the bench by 3:30pm.
'PM Office dissatisfied with IGP's performance'
Once the secretary Establishment reached court, the CJP asked him to explain the real reason behind the transfer.
"The issue of the IGP's transfer has been going on for some time now," the secretary Establishment told the bench. "The Prime Minister's Office is not satisfied with the IGP's performance."
The attorney general told the SC that IGP Jan Mohammad was transferred after PM Imran Khan issued verbal orders to this effect. The summary for the transfer was also submitted in court.
"Why don't we also transfer you?" the CJP asked the secretary Establishment. "Do you have the authority to do whatever you please? Are you building Naya Pakistan this way?" he asked.
The court observed that the secretary Establishment should not have had any role in the transfer, and said it would examine whether it was made on the basis of malicious intent.
The court directed the secretary Establishment to "take instructions from the PM and submit a response".
The federal government was told to submit a response by Wednesday. The court subsequently suspended the transfer, maintaining that it was not in line with the law.
Abrupt police transfers raise eyebrows
This is not the first abrupt police transfer under the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government. There were two reshuffles of provincial police chiefs in September and October after the new government was elected.
Amjad Javed Saleemi, the Sindh IGP, was replaced by Kaleem Imam, the Punjab IGP, in September after the Pakpattan controversy on Aug 24.
The DPO Pakpattan was abruptly transferred in the middle of the night after it emerged that he had not visited the Maneka family's residence after they were intercepted on their way to Darbar.
The National Counter Terrorism Authority (Nacta) chief, Khalid Dad Lak, who was tasked with probing the matter and submitting a report to court said that the order for the DPO Pakpattan's transfer "flowed from the chief minister's office", while then Punjab IGP Kaleem Imam "acted as a rubber stamp".
Around the same time, then Khyber Pakhtunkhwa IGP Muhammad Tahir was appointed Punjab IGP, replacing Imam.
Amjad Javed Saleemi was in October transferred to Punjab, where he replaced Muhammad Tahir, prompting Nasir Durrani, the head of the police reforms commission and a favourite with Prime Minister Imran Khan, to step down.
However, Saleemi's transfer was temporarily suspended by the Election Commission of Pakistan since it was a violation of its Sept 3 directives banning postings and transfers of government officials in the wake of the Oct 14 by-polls.
He assumed charge in Punjab after the by-polls.
Islamabad police chief's replacements
IGP Islamabad Jan Mohammad is currently in Malaysia on ex-Pakistan leave to attend a course, and will return on November 5 and hand over the charge to his successor if the government has appointed any officer in his place by then.
Sources told Dawn that he was transferred from the capital police while he was abroad. Currently, DIG Security Waqar Chohan has been looking after the office of the IGP Islamabad in his absence.
The names of four officers are currently under consideration for the post of the IGP Islamabad but so far no one has been finalised, according to the sources. They said two of them had already showed reluctance to fill the post.