KARACHI: The Sindh government on Wednesday decided to appoint a new inspector general (IG) of police to replace Dr Kaleem Imam and demanded action against the incumbent officer for exceeding his authority and issuing “irresponsible statements”, triggering a new conflict in the political arena of Sindh.

The main opposition Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf vowed to challenge the provincial administration’s decision, calling it “an unconstitutional attempt to encroach on the federal mandate.”

The decision prompted immediate reaction from Islamabad and Prime Minister Imran Khan called Sindh Governor Imran Ismail though his words did not suggest any strong move against the provincial government’s decision. A brief statement issued by Governor House said the PM asked the governor to take all stakeholders on board over the appointment of IG.

“The PM and the governor held discussion on the Sindh IG issue. The PM assigned the Sindh governor to hold consultation with all stakeholders concerned on the subject,” the statement said without mentioning any reaction — positive or negative — of the PM on the Pakistan Peoples Party government’s move.

The PM’s party in Sindh, however, sounded more aggressive on the issue and Opposition Leader in the Sindh Assembly Shamim Naqvi, within an hour after the provincial government’s decision, announced that they would move court if Dr Imam is removed.

PM contacts Sindh governor over the move; opposition leader in provincial assembly announces plan to approach court

“We have reasons for doing so,” Mr Naqvi told reporters. “The appointment, removal or transfer of inspector general [of police] is not a provincial subject. How can the Sindh government take a decision on the subject, which doesn’t fall under its mandate? The option of court is open for everyone and we would avail that.”

Sindh cabinet

Earlier in the day the Sindh cabinet called on the federal government to withdraw services of Dr Imam for his “failure” in maintaining and improving law and order, asking Islamabad to appoint one of the experienced senior police officers from the panel to be sent to the Centre by the provincial government.

“Keeping in view the growing incidents of kidnapping for ransom, particularly of girls, snatching of cars and motorcycles, killing of innocent persons in police firing and failure of the IG to control the situation, the cabinet has called on the federal government to withdraw the services of the incumbent IGP,” said Sindh Information Minister Saeed Ghani after conclusion of the provincial cabinet’s meeting at CM House.

Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah presided over the meeting, which was convened to discuss the single agenda vis-à-vis removal of the IG. Chief Secretary Mumtaz Shah, all cabinet members, principal secretary to CM, and secretaries for home and law attended the meeting.

At the outset of the meeting, the cabinet observed the IG “has failed to control crime in the province and on top of it he has violated discipline repeatedly, including making direct correspondence and direct contact with the foreign missions and embassies without prior approval of the government and the Foreign Office”.

The meeting was told that the IG had written a letter to the chief minister in which services of DIG Khadim Rind had been surrendered, which was followed by a reminder by the police chief to the CM some time later.

When the chief minister returned the services of DIG Rind to Islamabad, the Sindh police chief then sent a ‘secret’ letter to the chief secretary and protested with him on the surrender of the DIG’s services “without his knowledge and leaked the copy of the letter to the media”, the meeting was told.

“He (IG) put the provincial government in an awkward position in the eyes of the people of Sindh and Pakistan,” said Minister Ghani.

The meeting was told that the IG had recommended a certain official for appointment as SSP of Shikarpur. The IG was told that the proposed SSP was a new entry in the province and Shikarpur was a sensitive district in terms of its tribal composition and feuds. Yet, the SSP was posted in Shikarpur on the insistence of the IG.

“The SSP Shikarpur failed to control law and order there as incidents of kidnapping for ransom increased day by day. When people of Shikarpur city and district launched protest, the SSP started arresting innocent persons in [fake] narcotics cases and one of the arrested youngsters was killed by the police due to torture,” the meeting was told as stated by a spokesperson of the CM House.

The spokesperson further said that the SSP registered a case under the antiterrorism laws against 22 villagers. “A DIG inquired into the case and wrote against high-handedness of the SSP.”

The cabinet observed that instead of taking action against the SSP, the IG defended him and embarrassed the provincial government again.

The cabinet also noted that the kidnapping cases of Bisma and Dua Mangi were not handled properly either as the kidnapped girls returned when their parents paid ransom.

The cabinet also discussed the issue of Irshad Ranjhani who was fired upon in broad daylight allegedly by a private person, Raheem Shah, at Bhains Colony in Karachi.

The police instead of taking Ranjhani to hospital shifted him to the police station in the area in their van.

“On the way to the police station, Irshad Ranjhani was allegedly shot dead in police mobile,” said the information minister.

“The IG instead of taking action against the police (officials involved in the incident), started defending them. As a result, four innocent people belonging to tribal areas ... were killed in Larkana in reaction.”

The chief minister told the cabinet that killers of the four victims had been arrested.

The cabinet observed that the IG, in violation of the rules and standard operating procedures of the federal government, “was directly corresponding with foreign missions functioning in Karachi and Islamabad”.

“Certain intelligence agencies corresponded with the chief secretary requesting him to stop police officers from contacting foreign diplomatic missions directly without permission of the Foreign Office,” the cabinet meeting was told.

The cabinet unanimously called upon the federal government to withdraw services of IG Dr Kaleem Imam and post one of the senior officers who had served in Sindh in his place for which the provincial cabinet has recommended four names unanimously.

The chief minister read out a list of 30 police officers of grade BPS-21 and BPS-22 to the cabinet to finalise a panel of three officers. The cabinet finalised the names of Ghulam Qadir Thebo, Mushtaq Mahar, Sanaullah Abbasi and Kamran Fazal.

The cabinet unanimously said IG Imam “has lost the confidence of the cabinet, therefore he must be replaced”.

The cabinet urged the chief minister to approach the prime minister with the request to change the IG of Sindh as recommended by the cabinet so that law and order and overall police performance could be improved in the province.

The cabinet also requested the chief minister to initiate disciplinary action against the incumbent IG by sending a detailed statement “with evidences of his misconduct and his failure in following the provincial rules and regulations” to the establishment division.

Published in Dawn, January 16th, 2020