BUREAUCRATIC reshuffles are routine when it comes to running administrative matters. If an officer is not performing, the state has the power to transfer him or her and replace them with a more competent individual. However, when transfers and postings occur with abnormal frequency, it gives rise to speculation that something more than just performance is being judged; that perhaps it is political compulsions that underlie the exit or posting of an officer, rather than professional competence. The recent change of the Punjab police chief has certainly raised eyebrows; outgoing IGP Amjad Javed Saleemi was replaced on Monday by Arif Nawaz. This would perhaps be considered a routine matter if it were not the fourth time in eight months that Punjab’s top police officer was changed — with all transfers taking place under the PTI government’s watch. Regarding Mr Saleemi’s exit, the speculation doing the rounds is that the top brass were not happy with his performance, and it is being alleged that he had a ‘soft corner’ for the PML-N.
While public servants should not let their political affiliations get in the way of their work, it is also not fair to penalise officials based on their political preferences, especially if they are performing their duties ably. More importantly, the independence of the police cannot be achieved until there is zero political interference in the force’s affairs, and until officers are allowed to complete their tenure. If evidence of serious misconduct or lack of performance comes to light, then there must be a transparent procedure and an oversight body that should deal with the matter to ensure justice is done. Officers should not be transferred simply on a whim: each time the Punjab IG has been removed over the past eight months, no reasons have been given for the move. And it is not just Punjab where police officers have failed to impress their political bosses. In Sindh, former IG A.D. Khowaja — widely seen as a capable officer — had a rough innings with the provincial administration as the PPP-led Sindh government tried to remove him several times on apparently political grounds until the Supreme Court ruled that he must complete his tenure. If political forces in ‘naya Pakistan’ want the police to deliver, then tenure must be respected and officers not sent packing based on political likes and dislikes.
Published in Dawn, April 17th, 2019