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KARACHI: While the Sindh High Court on Tuesday granted time till May 21 to the Sindh government for framing rules regarding transfers and postings in the police department, the select committee formed to examine the bill for the revival of the Police Order, 2002 added another day for considering the bill before submitting its recommendations to the Sindh Assembly as the opposition parties stayed away from attending the last meeting of the committee.

A two-judge bench of the SHC headed by Justice Syed Hasan Azhar Rizvi was hearing a contempt of court application against Chief Minister of Sindh Syed Murad Ali Shah and the then chief secretary for allegedly not complying with an earlier order of the SHC to draft new rules for transfers and postings in the police.

At the last hearing, the bench had granted four-week time to the authorities on request of the provincial law officer with direction to complete the process of examining the Police Order 2002 and other relevant laws as well as police rules of other provinces and the federal capital.

Opposition boycotts select committee meeting examining draft of new police law

However, when the matter came up for hearing on Tuesday, a provincial law officer submitted that a bill on proposed revival of the Police Order 2002 had been tabled in the Sindh Assembly and expressed the hope that the proposed law would be passed at the earliest.

Expressing resentment over the delays in the implementation of the order of the court, Justice Rizvi remarked that around three months had passed since the court issued directives for formulating the rules for transfers and postings in the police department.

However, the judge noted with concern that the same were not being implemented and asked as to who was creating hurdles in this regard.

The law officer said the proposed bill was likely to be passed by the provincial assembly soon and requested for more time with regard to implementation of the court’s directives and filing a compliance report.

Allowing the law officer’s request, the bench members granted one-week time to the provincial government for formulating the rules and adjourned hearing till May 21.

The application seeking contempt proceedings against the chief minister and the then chief secretary Rizwan Memon was filed by civil rights campaigners.

The counsel for the applicants submitted that on Sept 7, 2017 the SHC, in its judgement in the A.D. Khowaja removal case, had issued directives for drafting new rules for transfers and postings and submitting the same before the provincial cabinet.

He further argued that complying with the court’s directives, the then IGP Khowaja had drafted new rules and sent them to the provincial cabinet, adding that the provincial cabinet was supposed to consider the new rules in its meeting called for the purpose within 15 days of receiving the same from the IGP, but the meeting was held after a delay of seven days and the drafted rules were not considered.

Earlier, the court had repeatedly directed the Sindh government to convene its meeting to consider the drafted rules as per law and submit a report before it.

The applicants’ lawyer argued that despite clear directives of the court, the provincial government had failed to consider the drafted rules; therefore, contempt of court proceedings should be initiated against the CM and others.

Opposition parties boycott meeting

As the opposition parties on Tuesday stayed away from attending the final meeting for deliberations on the revival of the Police Order, 2002, the select committee added another day for weighing up the bill before its recommendations are submitted to the Sindh Assembly, senior officials in the government said.

The three major opposition parties in the Sindh Assembly had complained a day earlier that they had not been provided with minutes of the earlier meeting of the select committee formed to examine the bill for the revival of the Police Order. They claimed it was not revival of the 2002 legislation, but it was altogether a new law.

Adviser to the Sindh Chief Minister on Information and Law Barrister Murtaza Wahab told reporters that the select committee would finalise the draft of the new police law by Wednesday (today) and it would be presented in the provincial legislature where the session would resume on Friday.

He said the committee had decided to recommend the Sindh government to form a Public Safety Commission at provincial and district levels in two months after passage of the police order in assembly.

Barrister Wahab was flanked by Agriculture Minister Ismail Rahu, who heads the select committee, and ministers for local government and energy, Saeed Ghani and Imtiaz Shaikh. He was briefing the media about the committee’s meetings held at the Sindh Assembly building.

He said the meeting of the select committee was chaired by Minister Rahu on Tuesday that discussed the new police law.

“The participants of the select committee were moving positively towards making an effective policing system in the province making the police force accountable.

“The Sindh government gave positive gesture to the opposition parties, including Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan, Grand Democratic Alliance, by giving them full space to chip in with their recommendations.”

Besides, he added, civil society representatives were also involved to make their recommendation for the new police order.

“But,” he said, “it is very unfortunate to say that opposition did not reciprocate the government’s positive gesture when PTI, MQM and GDA boycotted today’s sitting of the select committee”.

Mr Wahab said the committee had decided to keep the whole affair amicable and consensus-based, thus, it would meet on Wednesday as well, though Tuesday’s meeting was supposed to be the last as per schedule.

“The meeting participants will meet again on Wednesday for building consensus and create unanimity on the draft law.”

He said recommendations of the opposition leader had duly been incorporated in the draft but, “they are bent upon scoring points on political grounds.

“The boycott of today’s meeting was without any reason.”

Barrister Wahab said the inspector general of police was also invited by the select committee in a sitting to know his opinion and his take on the matter.

“The IG police has accepted that Police Order 2002 was a balanced law which provided independence to the force as well as making it accountable. He said members of civil society, who had filed petition with the court, had also been invited by the committee to learn about their points of view.

He said civil society members’ opinion was that their basic intention for filing the petition was to revive the Police Order, 2002, and formation of the public safety commissions.

He said that it was mentioned in the terms of reference of the select committee to review the Police Order 2002. He referred to the PTI’s manifesto championing a single Pakistan for all, and that Sindh government as well did believe in one Pakistan and not two.

He said the government was not in favour of absolute power resting with a single person, adding that transfers and postings in the police department should be made in consultation with the chief executive of the province and the police chief.

He said transfers and postings in the police in Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan were being made in consultation with the respective chief ministers.

He dispelled the impression that the Sindh government wanted to keep powers of police, adding, powers would be delegated through the safety commissions.

Responding to a question on the boycott of Tuesday’s sitting of the committee by the opposition, he said opposition wanted nothing else but to block the government’s efforts to enact effective police system in the province.

He said members of the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal and the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan had supported the draft bill.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the PTI said the government should hand minutes of the earlier meetings to the opposition instead of furnishing “misleading” statements.

Published in Dawn, May 15th, 2019