LAHORE: The Punjab inspector general of police (IGP) appointed district police officers (DPOs) in the ‘unstable’ districts of Pakpattan, Nankana Sahib and Kasur after Chief Minister Usman Buzdar approved filling of the vacancies on Friday.

Awaiting posting, Sahibzada Bilal Umar was appointed as the Pakpattan DPO, Lahore Operations Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Ismail Kharrak in Nankana Sahib and Zahid Nawaz Marwat in Kasur.

Pakpattan and Nankana Sahib assumed prominence recently in terms of political interference, an official privy to the information told Dawn. He claimed that the last two DPOs of Nankana Sahib, Faisal Shahzad and Muhammad Naveed, had been transferred on political grounds. They had faced immense pressure after a powerful federal minister got upset with them for taking action against some station house officers (SHOs) the minister was backing, the official added.

He said the matter of the recently transferred Shahzad reached the offices of the chief minister and IGP during Muharram after he transferred two SHOs on corruption charges and the minister wanted them back.

The official said the IGP had sought some time to settle the issue when some senior police officers stepped in to rescue Mr Shahzad. Finally, he was transferred following a “tussle with the minister” and SSP Kharrak was nominated to replace Shahzad after other officers refused to serve in Nankana Sahib citing interference of the minister in police matters.

Mr Kharrak had earlier served in Nankana as its DPO last year. His re-appointment within a year was being taken as an unusual development.

The official said the IGP had shortlisted the names of 19 police officers to choose DPOs of Rahim Yar Khan, Pakpattan, Kasur and Nankana Sahib. Some ranker police officers were also included to the list as a strategy to appoint one of them in Nankana Sahib in case a PSP officer refused.

He said most of the officers were avoiding posting in Rahim Yar Khan, Nankana and Pakpattan, but were convinced for the latter two. However, no one was ready to go to Rahim Yar Khan yet. The reason was the abrupt transfers of two DPOs within a short period following the custodial death of Salahuddin Ayubi. The then DPO, Umer Salamat, was removed from his position in September.

The superintendent of police (SP), Habibullah Khan, was given additional charge of the DPO but he was also removed for allegedly influencing the case investigation after the victim’s father complained to the chief minister in this regard.

The official further said the IGP had given a go-ahead to appoint Sahiwal DPO Muhammad Ali Zia in Rahim Yar Khan, but Zia is said to have refused citing some personal reasons. Later, the name of SP Sarfraz Virk was floated, but he also refused. The IGP then postponed the appointment process for the district.

About Pakpattan, he said, the officers expressed reluctance to serve there following the transfer of three DPOs in just one year. The removal of Rizwan Gondal in August 2018 had brought the district into limelight after he was punished on the complaint of the Khawar Maneka family.

The controversy had created headlines, attracting the attention of the then chief justice of Pakistan, the prime minister and other senior government officials besides resulting in unrest among the police community.

Maria Mehmood was transferred in May. Recently, Ibadat Nisar was removed as the DPO following an SHO’s rude behaviour with an elderly man at the shrine of Baba Farid. His transfer had irked his colleagues and the police community in general, asking the IGP to review his policy of frequent transfers over petty issues.

Published in Dawn, October 12th, 2019