LAHORE: The new chief of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), Wajid Zia, has brought in his own team in Punjab apparently to improve its working.

In a notification issued here on Monday, Muhammad Rizwan, a BPS-20 Police Service of Pakistan director of the agency’s Economic Crime Wing at its headquarters in Islamabad, was transferred and posted as FIA Zone-I director in Lahore, replacing Waqar Abbasi.

Humayun Masood Sandhu, an Integrated Border Management System director in BPS-20, was transferred from the Islamabad headquarters and posted as the FIA Punjab Zone-II director. Mr Sandhu will be stationed in Multan, replacing Dr Tariq Rustom Chohan.

The acting charge of both zones was withdrawn from Islamabad HQ (North) Director Abdur Rab.

Over a year ago, the FIA had bifurcated Punjab reportedly on the directions of Prime Minister Imran Khan primarily to improve its working and facilitate complainants. Mr Abbasi and Mr Chohan had been assigned the top positions.

The Punjab Zone-I comprises Lahore, Sheikhupura, Nankana Sahib and Kasur, while Punjab-II comprises Gujranwala, Gujrat, Faisalabad and Multan and other south Punjab circles.

An official source told Dawn that Wajid Zia has sought suggestions from the new appointees, Mr Rizwan and Mr Sandhu, to improve the working of the agency in the province of over 110 million. “Since the FIA Punjab was divided into two zones, it lost its focus on anti-corruption cases. But now, it will be the main focus of both zones,” he said.

Mr Abdur Rab, who had assumed the acting charge of both zones, had also said that the agency’s main focus (under the new command) would be on investigations into the income beyond means cases against government officials/bureaucrats.

Although the income-beyond-means investigations fell within the ambit of the FIA, they were not its top priority since the National Accountability Bureau was actively pursuing the cases.

Furthermore, on the insistence of officials, Mr Zia has reportedly requested the prime minister to bring the salaries of the FIA officials on a par with the NAB. “Witness the improvement in performance after a reasonable raise in the salaries of the FIA,” Mr Zia is quoted to have said.

The FIA Punjab zones have over 900 officials – Zone-I has over 300 and the remaining with Zone-II. However, the Zone-II office in Multan has no secretariat or building as that of Zone-I in Lahore.

Also, after deployment of over 130 officials for the Kartarpur Corridor, the Punjab Zone-II is in dire need of manpower and resources.

Published in Dawn, December 17th, 2019