Admin-police tussle

January 17, 2020

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IN what is becoming an ugly, recurring tug of war in Sindh’s administrative landscape, the provincial government has sent the Sindh police chief packing for his ‘failure’ to improve law and order. The provincial cabinet announced this on Wednesday, and a day later the Sindh administration wrote to the centre to repatriate Kaleem Imam as his services were no longer required. The Sindh government was of the view that Mr Imam had failed to perform and, therefore, he was being shipped out. However, there is more to this than meets the eye; in December, Kaleem Imam had written to the chief secretary, complaining that two officers had apparently been transferred without his approval, which was “affecting police working”. Those familiar with Sindh’s politics felt that it was only a matter of time before this confrontation came out into the open. Sure enough, the IGP’s marching orders now confirm the fact that the PPP-led Sindh government is no longer interested in Mr Imam’s services. The PTI, which sits on the opposition benches in the Sindh Assembly, says it will go to court over the move, with the prime minister reportedly calling the provincial governor over the matter.

The tussle between the administration and police officers is not just limited to Sindh. For example, Punjab has also seen police chiefs changed in quick succession over the past couple of years. Moreover, the resignation of former KP IG Nasir Durrani from the police reforms commission, reportedly over the removal of the then Punjab IG, was also reflective of a wide gulf of mistrust between the administration and senior officers. The fact is that if the centre and the provinces are serious about police reforms, political interference must be eliminated, and officers must be allowed to complete their tenure and have a free hand where running the force is concerned. While provincial governments are known for meddling in the affairs of the police, the centre must also refrain from issuing viceregal edicts — especially in the aftermath of devolution — when it comes to police matters. If there is solid evidence of misconduct against an officer, then a proper inquiry as per the SOPs must be initiated. Simply shipping out an unwanted officer indicates that the political bosses are not happy with said individual. Despite the politicians’ resolve to change the dreaded thana culture, there has been little improvement in the force’s performance, much of it due to political meddling.

Published in Dawn, January 17th, 2020