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Child’s death in encounter exposes differences between Sindh govt, police

Updated April 19, 2019

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In this file photo, Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah offers Fateha after condoling with the father of the child killed by police fire. — APP
In this file photo, Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah offers Fateha after condoling with the father of the child killed by police fire. — APP

KARACHI: The killing of 20-month-old Mohammed Ahsan during an alleged police encounter in the Sachal area on Tuesday evening has once again exposed the growing differences between the Sindh government and the police as the chief minister and ministers publicly criticise the police performance.

This is the second time that differences emerged between the government and the police. Previously, the provincial chief executive had also publicly expressed his extreme displeasure over the handling of the Irshad Ranjhani murder case by the police.

Provincial Minister Saeed Ghani on Wednesday alleged that the police had become “uncontrollable and unaccountable” after the court’s decision.

The police officers admitted their certain “mistakes” but said the cases of police’s alleged negligence could be attributed to lack of proper training.

Experts say govt unhappy over IGP’s transfer, posting powers; police recruitment through NTS

However, they contended that the real bone of contention was the proposed police rules for transfers and postings in the police as one and a half years had passed but these rules had not been framed by the provincial government as per directions of the Sindh High Court in the A.D. Khowaja case.

A senior officer, who wished not to be named, told Dawn that when the provincial legislature repealed the Police Order 2002 and reintroduced the Police Act of 1861 with a new name in 2011, rules were not framed. In the Khowaja case, the apex court gave the ruling that the government could not interfere in the administration of the police as transfer and posting powers belonged to the inspector general of police.

The court also directed that the police rules for transfer and posting should be prepared by the IGP office, which should be approved by the provincial cabinet. The former IG prepared rules in November 2017 but the same were not approved by the government. The officer said that when Dr Syed Kaleem Imam took charge as the Sindh IG, the provincial government tried to apply two types of pressure.

The provincial government “pressurised” the new IG to bring changes in the police rules prepared by his predecessor but he refused to do so contending that it might contravene the SC judgement.

Secondly, the government also tried to pressurise the IG for transfer and posting of their “favourite” police officers.

Question of control

Another senior police officer, who also wished not to be named, told Dawn that the problem was that whichever government came into power, they wanted control over the police in an attempt to win next elections and safeguard their political and business interests.

In the A.D. Khowaja case, the SC had directed the authorities to prepare rules for transfer and posting of police officers in such a way that the IG’s powers are not undermined.

Former IG A.D. Khowaja had prepared such rules and sent them to the cabinet for approval. Incumbent IG Syed Kaleem Imam had also added a “few things” and prepared the draft of police law and sent it for the cabinet’s approval.

The Sindh government fears that the SC might give a judgement about it that might establish autonomy of the IG office.

The new IGP has prepared the police law draft in the light of recommendations of the police reforms committee set up by former chief justice Mian Saqib Nisar with the addition of some local elements to it.

A source said the Sindh government wanted the “past arrangement” to continue which implied that the IGP exercise powers of transfer and posting of officers up to grade 18 and above that grade, officers be appointed by the home department or the chief minister.

Another bone of contention between the government and the police pertained to possible recruitment as the former wanted the past practice for recruitment, which included “recommendations” by lawmakers.

But for the last three years, policemen have been recruited through the NTS, which in the long run may enhance police professionalism, said a police officer.

The officer claimed that the Sindh government had already “compromised” the performance of the Sindh Public Service Commission and education boards; they now wanted the police to follow suit. That was the real bone of contention but they were not admitting it, said the officer.

Therefore, whenever an untoward incident occurred, the ruling elite in Sindh wanted to “corner” the police as in the recent killing of 20-month-old Ahsan during an encounter.

“The purpose of the criticism was to bring police under pressure so that a case or base could be made for police reforms, which suits their interests.”

He claimed that the police had adopted a “professional approach” by arresting the UC chairman and the policemen in the Ranjhani murder case and policemen in other cases.

He said a new issue had emerged that for the last seven months, three IGPs of Punjab had been transferred and the Sindh government argued that when the PTI-led government was changing IGPs in Punjab frequently, why could this not be done in Sindh?

“The government may want to take political mileage by criticising the police, but it gives a bad impression,” said the officer.

“The government is targeting the police to portray that their working has gone down since the IGP got exclusive powers of transfers and postings,” said a police officer.

‘Wrong interpretation’

However, senior lawyer and a former advocate general of Sindh Barrister Zamir Ghumro did not agree with the stance of the police and said certain police officers were wrongly interpreting the judgement of the SHC in the A.D. Khowaja case.

He said the Sindh government wanted to introduce a new law; therefore, there was no need for preparing police rules.

Mr Ghumro said it was a prerogative of the legislature to legislate.

Meanwhile, Chief Minister’s spokesperson Rasheed Channa told Dawn that there were no differences between the Sindh government and the police. But the CM had expressed his displeasures over the recent alleged criminal negligence of the police, which resulted in the death of five innocent persons in the metropolis over the past few months.

Published in Dawn, April 19th, 2019